Gladys Baker – Marilyn’s Mother – Part Two

On her return to Los Angeles and with the beginning of her friendship with Grace McKee, Gladys Baker started going out dancing and dating, leading to the two women having a reputation amongst their male co-workers.  However, on 11th October 1924, Gladys shocked everyone when she suddenly married Edward Mortensen.  Though her new husband was very much in love with her, the same could not be said for Gladys, and soon she fell for one of her bosses at Consolisdated Films, a 25 year old divorcee named Charles Stanley Gifford.

By May 1925 Gladys had left Mortensen for Gifford and by the following Autumn was pregnant with their first child.  Della Monroe, Gladys’ mother, was unhappy about yet another illegitimate pregnancy.  Gifford’s family were also less than pleased, given Gifford had been married with children prior to this and had walked out on his family.  Following a visit to the family home, Gifford was told to either marry Gladys or do something about it.  Gladys never visited with the family again.

On 1st June 1926, Gladys gave birth to a baby girl who she named Norma Jeane.  Gifford did not attend the hospital which upset Gladys, who was hopeful of starting a new family with him.  Following the birth Gladys gave the baby her estranged husband’s name, purely for respectability, and moved in with the Bolenders, a fostering family living just opposite the Monroe home.  Many have speculated that Gladys abandoned Norma Jeane at this point but this isn’t true.  Gladys had to go back to work but would stay with the Bolenders when possible.  When, eventually she did move in with Grace McKee on a more permanent basis, Gladys tried to see Norma Jeane most weekends.  In the few weeks and months after her birth, Gifford attempted to see his daughter, even suggesting that he would raise the child himself when he heard Norma Jeane was in foster care. Gladys would not hear of him even seeing the child, let alone taking her away, and, given the situation with her first husband taking her older two children, it’s most likely the idea horrified her.

In 1933 Gladys decided to bring Norma Jeane to live with her.  Growing up Gladys must have seemed strange to Norma Jeane.  The slightest noise, even the turning pages of a book, would irritate Gladys, and she was known to regularly tell the child to be quiet. Gladys had a photograph of Gifford hanging up in the house and Norma Jeane used to gaze at it in wonder.  Gifford resembled Clark Gable, which would in part explain Marilyn’s love of the actor, and a young Norma Jeane used to dream of having her father with her.  Shortly after Norma Jeane moved in with her mother two shocking events combined to send Gladys into a tailspin.  Firstly, on 26th May 1933, Gladys’ grandfather, Tilford Hogan, hanged himself in a barn while his wife was out shopping.  Following that, on 16th August 1933, Robert Baker, Gladys’ son, died of tuberculosis of the kidneys.  News of both events didn’t reach Gladys until she was already living with Norma Jeane and it sent her into a depression she could not escape.

On 15th January 1934 Gladys was admitted to Los Angeles County General Hospital psych ward after she was found hysterical at the bottom of the stairs in their Arbol Drive home.  The following December, Gladys was admitted to Norwalk State Hospital and the following month, exactly one year to the day after being admitted to hospital, Gladys was declared insane.