Marilyn Monroe, whose real name was Norma Jean Mortensen Baker, was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She died by suicide in Los Ageles at the age of 36.
Monroe had a tumultuous childhood and it is reflected in her religious upbringing. Monroe’s mother was a Christian Scientist who is often cited as being “obsessed” with the religion. However, Marilyn’s mother was unstable and an alcoholic. As a result, Monroe spent much of her childhood under the care of a foster family, the Bolenders, who were devout Baptists. Marilyn once said:
Nearly everybody I knew talked to me about God. They always warned me not to offend Him.
One gets the sense she was a bit annoyed by all of it. In adulthood, it could be said that Monroe’s religion was psychoanalysis–as religious as that can be. It would seem that she had left Christianity behind for the most part. During the filming of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Monroe’s co-star Jane Russell, a devout born-again Christian, tried to get Monroe to come back into the fold. Monroe said:
Jane tried to convert me [to religion] and I tried to introduce her to Freud.
Marilyn did eventually find her religion. Only minutes before the wedding of her third and final marriage to legendary playwright Arthur Miller, Monroe converted to Judaism. Even though the marriage only lasted six years, Monroe remained devout until her death, appearing at Jewish fundraisers, giving a pro-Zionist speech, and attending conversion classes.
Monroe was often marginalized by her beauty and many might assume that her only political positions were the ones she found herself in during her alleged affair with President John F. Kennedy. But Marilyn was a socially forward-thinking woman. During the last interview before Marilyn killed herself, she asked the reporter to take her seriously and end the article with the following quote:
What I really want to say: That what the world really needs is a real feeling of kinship. Everybody: stars, laborers, Negroes, Jews, Arabs. We are all brothers. Please don’t make me a joke. End the interview with what I believe.
Monroe would probably be considered a liberal or a leftist to this day. She was known to have associated with communists–a very dangerous exercise in the McCarthy era–and the FBI had a file on her that read: “very positively and concisely leftist.” The daughter of her psychiatrist once said of Monroe:
[She was] passionate about equal rights, rights for blacks, rights for the poor. She identified strongly with the workers.
Monroe was also a peace activist and a supporter of a “moral” and “sane” policy in regard to nuclear weapons.
Monroe was not at all the dumb-blonde, bimbo, airhead that the public of her time considered her to be. She was a thoughtful, sensitive, and intelligent woman who, by all accounts, was ahead of her time.