Gladys Baker – Marilyn’s Mother – Part Three

In 1949, Gladys Baker married John Stewart Eley, an electrician. However Eley neglected to inform Gladys that he was already married – his first wife living in Boise, Idaho. The couple lived in Los Angeles but Eley died just three years later of a heart infection.

During Marilyn’s career Gladys spent the majority of her time in and out of care facilities or hospitals.  Over the period of time that Marilyn was making a living as an actress, she paid for Glady’s care with her earnings. Little is known of this period of Gladys’ life due to Marilyn wanting her privacy respected.  As Marilyn’s star began to rise, she even led people to believe her mother was dead.  It wasn’t until an article appeared in the media disclosing that Gladys was alive and well, that people realised Marilyn wasn’t an orphan.

Prior to Marilyn’s death, Gladys was moved to Rockhaven Sanitarium in Los Angeles where she lived for eight years. Rockhaven was a beautiful sanitarium but the fact that it wasn’t run by Chrisian Scientists bothered Gladys and, as Berniece noted, Gladys would not be happy anywhere that she was confined. Whilst living there Gladys attempted suicide several times and was involved in altercations with some of the patients.

Three weeks following Marilyn’s death Gladys wrote a letter to Inez Melson – Marilyn’s business manager – in which she discussed Norma Jeane. She wrote;

My Dear Friend Ms. Melson,
I am very grateful for your kind and gracious help toward Beniece and myself and to dear Norma Jeane. She is at peace and at rest now and may our God bless her and help her always: Wanted her to be happy and joyous. God bless you all for your goodness.
Loving Gratitude
Mrs. Gladys P. Eley

Following Marilyn’s death it took years to organise her will and get it out of probate. There was no money readily available immediately following Marilyn’s death to provide for Gladys’ care at Rockhaven, and the cost of living there had become unmanageable.  Rockhaven moved Gladys to a smaller room in order to try to accommodate her and, in an out of character gesture by the owner, allowed her to stay free of charge for two years. Gladys escaped from Rockhaven by climbing down a rope of knotted sheets, a Christian Science manual and a bible in her hand. Gladys was later found in a Baptist church and spoke to one of the clergyman before she returned to the sanitarium. Gladys was reported to have told the clergyman that she had never wanted Marilyn to become an actress and that her career never did Marilyn any good.  In 1965, following a suicide attempt, Berniece removed Gladys from the sanitarium and brought her to Florida to live with her. This stay lasted a short time due to Gladys having more than a few misadventures, including once leaving the iron burning through the ironing board as she sat reading a book.

By the time Marilyn’s will came through, according to Berniece, in 1977, Gladys had run away and was nowhere to be found. Having been unsuccessful at living independently, Gladys returned to Berniece and entered a Florida nursing home where she lived out her days until she died of congenitive heart failure on 11th March 1984, at the age of eighty one.

Whilst Gladys would at times speak of Norma Jeane, in her later years, when questioned about her, Gladys did not seem sure who Norma Jeane was or what had become of her.