Say the name, “Marilyn,” and only one woman comes to mind: The stunning, sultry, and iconic Ms. Monroe. Born Norma Jeane Mortenson (baptized Norma Jean Baker) on June 1, 1926, she was taken to a foster home when she was only two-weeks-old by her mother, Gladys Baker. Gladys had a history of mental instability and was often hospitalized. Norma spent her childhood in a series of foster homes, dropping out of high school at 15. She worked in a munitions factory during WWII, where she was discovered, and began a career as a pin-up model. In 1946, she signed her first movie contract, shortly thereafter adopting her new stage name and dying her brunette hair blonde.
In a matter of a few years, Marilyn would become one of the world’s most famous actresses, known for her blonde bombshell looks as well as her tumultuous relationships with famous men. Despite her unsettled personal life, Marilyn endeared herself to fans around the world with her soft voice, gentle demeanor, and beautiful smile. She was also a savvy businesswoman who revolutionized the film industry. Here’s a look at her life through the decades.
Here, Gladys Baker holds her daughter, Norma. She took the baby to her first foster home when she was only two weeks old. She visited Norma and even lived with her daughter briefly before Gladys was hospitalized for a time due to paranoid schizophrenia. She would be in and out of hospitals for most of her life.
Six-month-old Norma is seen in what's likely her first formal portrait.
Norma posed here at two years old. It was during this time she was living with her first set of foster parents.
Norma's mom, Gladys, visited her daughter frequently during the early years.
Norma's beautiful smile is revealed in this portrait when she's five years old.
Norma loved dogs and often had dogs throughout her life, including during her last days.
Norma is stylishly dressed for this formal portrait.
Norma (center) is seen on an outing with two friends.
Norma did see extended family members at times. Here, they're at a restaurant with Norma on the far right, center.
Norma married merchant marine, Jimmy Dougherty, when she was 16 years old. The marriage lasted until 1946.
Here, Norma models for a hair products advertisement.
Newly signed with 20th Century Fox, Norma began a whirlwind of publicity shoots. Around this time, she adopted her new stage name. Marilyn was a popular first name of the time; she paired it with her mother's maiden name, Monroe.
Marilyn began the transformation from all-American charmer to screen siren in this swimsuit shot staged by the studio.
Marilyn put in long hours learning her trade.
Marilyn learned to apply makeup to create a very specific screen persona for herself.
This portrait shows Marilyn in all her loveliness before her first movie appearance.
Marilyn laughed with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall at the premiere of How to Marry a Millionaire.
Marilyn left her hand and footprints in the cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. She's accompanied by Jane Russell, her co-star in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Marilyn had fans of all ages. Here, she signs for a young boy at the Grauman's event.
Marilyn attended a holiday party at Bob Hope's house. She's surrounded by Hope, General William Dean (who had addressed the U.S. troops in Korea the night before on Hope's show), and baseball great Joe DiMaggio, who will soon become Marilyn's second husband.
Marilyn married Joe DiMaggio in January. They're coming out of the courthouse where the ceremony was held.
Later that year, the couple would divorce.
Marilyn visited the troops in Korea during the Korean War. As you would imagine, her presence was celebrated by service members and the press alike.
Tired of being typecast as a dumb blond, Marilyn moved to New York City to study at the Actor's Studio. Here, Marilyn is holding her little white dog, Maf.
Marilyn appeared introspective in this candid shot in her New York hotel room.
Marilyn accepted flowers from Jack Warner, president of Warner Brothers, after Warner announced that Marilyn would star in a new film.
Marilyn blew out the candle on her cake to celebrate her milestone birthday.
Marilyn married Arthur Miller, a famous playwright best known for his Pultizer-award-winning play, Death of a Salesman.