Just twelve days after her birth in a charity ward, Norma Jeane was sent to live with her first foster family, Ida and Albert Bolender, an English couple who eventually offered to adopt Norma Jeane. The couple had other foster children and an adopted son, Lester. These were hard years and boarding children helped to earn a living, although not an easy one. Gladys herself paid $25.00 a month for Norma Jeane’s care and she appeared as a disturbing figure in the child’s life. She visited Norma Jeane every weekend and took her on outings but Norma Jeane didn’t understand this was her actual mother for several years. In fact she mistook Ida Bolender for her mother, until Bolender informed her “I am not your mother!”
As un-mothered as Norma Jeane was, she craved a father more than a mother. She knew her mother, even if Gladys was incarcerated. Norma Jeane knew nothing about her father and remained uncertain about his identity for all of her teens. In her early twenties, believing an employee of Consolidated Film Industries named Stanley Gifford was her father she contacted him by telephone. His cruel response was for her to “contact my lawyer.” By now Norma Jeane had become Marilyn Monroe but in spite of this celebrity status, it was clear Norma Jeane’s father wanted nothing to do with her.
Marilyn continued her search for a father figure all of her life. She called her husbands “daddy” and “pa.” She had no interest in younger men. Her interests lay solely with men who were significantly older than her. Marilyn’s behaviour is understandable when viewed from the perspective of a lonely person who always questioned her parentage. There was some question as to whether Jasper Baker, her mother’s first husband, could have been her real father but that is unlikely. Gladys and Baker divorced before Norma Jeane was born. He took their two children and left Los Angeles for another state. Gladys followed, trying to remain close to her children. But after some months she gave up and returned to L.A. The picture on the right is Edward Mortenson.
Gladys’ second husband was Norwegian immigrant Edward Mortenson. He is also rumoured to be Marilyn Monroe’s father. Gladys used his surname on Norma Jean’s birth certificate, although Marilyn often used the surname Baker later in life. She didn’t consider Mortenson to be her father. Gladys probably referenced Mortenson on Norma Jean’s birth certificate so as to present a respectable appearance and to offer her child a father. In 1962 when Marilyn had to fill in an official form that requested the name of her father she scribbled “unknown.” That’s a reasonable endnote to the question of Marilyn Monroe’s paternal lineage.