She was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, California, to Gladys Baker. As the identity of her father is undetermined, she was later baptized Norma Jeane Baker. Gladys had been a film cutter at RKO studios, but psychological problems prevented her from keeping the job and she was eventually committed to a mental institution.
Norma Jeane spent most of her childhood in foster homes and orphanages until 1937, when she moved in with family friend Grace McKee Goddard. Unfortunately, when Grace's husband was transferred to the East Coast in 1942, the couple couldn't afford to take 16-year-old Norma Jeane with them. Norma Jeane had two options: return to the orphanage or get married.
On June 19, 1942 she wed her 21-year-old neighbor Jimmy Dougherty, whom she had been dating for six months. "She was a sweet, generous and religious girl," Jimmy said. "She liked to be cuddled." By all accounts Norma Jeane loved Jimmy, and they were happy together until he joined the Merchant Marines and was sent to the South Pacific in 1944.