5 Things You Really Didn’t Know About Marilyn Monroe

Family History, Lifestyle
22 September 2016
by Samantha Johnson

Iconic Marilyn Monroe pose from Seven Year Itch.Marilyn Monroe is one of the most fascinating names in Hollywood history. And the tidbits of her life’s story have long intrigued audiences.

But if you think you know everything there is to know about the most famous Marilyn in history, think again.

Here are five facts about the blonde bombshell that just might surprise you.

1. Her mother was born in Mexico

The identity of Marilyn Monroe’s father remains a mystery, but her mother was Gladys Pearl Monroe, who was born to Otis and Della Monroe in (surprise!) Coahuila, Mexico.

Handwritten birth registration for Marilyn's mother.
The birth registration of Gladys Pearl Monroe, Marilyn’s mother, who was born in Coahuila, Mexico in 1902

Otis Monroe’s job as a painter for railroad companies had taken his family across the border, although their sojourn in Mexico was brief.

Otis’s family hailed from Indiana, and Della (nee Hogan) was from Bentonville, Arkansas (yes, the same Bentonville, Arkansas that was the first home of Wal-Mart).

2. Her hero was Abraham Lincoln

Although rumors have floated around that Marilyn Monroe was related to the 5th U.S. President, James Monroe, this has never been conclusively proven.

But Monroe’s hero was another U. S. President: the great Abraham Lincoln.

Although it may be hard to imagine, Monroe is said to have felt that Lincoln was the famous American most like her.

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln.
Which famous American did Marilyn feel was the most like her? Abe Lincoln

And even though Monroe probably didn’t have a presidential connection in her family history, other celebrities do (for example, George Clooney is a Lincoln descendant).

3. The name “Marilyn” skyrocketed in popularity

As is commonly known, Marilyn was born Norma Jeane Mortenson but changed her name in 1946.

But what’s less commonly known is that the name “Marilyn” skyrocketed in popularity by the time Marilyn’s career was at is height in the 1950s (at #56) compared to the 1920s when she was born (at #82).

Was this directly connected to the fame of Marilyn Monroe? A closer look shows the name’s growing popularity was actually connected to the fame of Broadway star Marilyn Miller.

Portrait of Marilyn Miller.
The name ‘Marilyn’ was a popular name, likely due to actress Marilyn Miller

So while Marilyn was definitely a trend setter, when it came to her choice of first name, she was following a trend of her times. 

As for her last name, she kept her mother’s maiden name, which is Scottish and a rare example of a Gaelic surname of topographic origin, the first element of which is probably Gaelic mun, a mutated form of bun, “foot,” or British minit, “hill.”

4. She was the first California Artichoke Queen

Before she reached full-fledged star status as an actress, the 21-year-old Monroe was crowned as the first California Artichoke Queen by the California Artichoke Growers Corporation in February 1948.

Newspaper clipping of Marilyn being crowned California Artichoke Queen.
Marilyn crowned Artichoke Queen (via artichoke festival.org)

It may have seemed inconsequential at the time, but the Monroe seal of approval helped to propel the popularity of artichokes in California.

5. She was (yes!) a Mayflower descendant

What did Marilyn Monroe and Katharine Hepburn have in common besides iconic Hollywood careers? The answer: ancestors who came to America on the Mayflower in 1620.

Poster of notable descendants of the Mayflower.

While Hepburn’s ancestor was William Brewster, Monroe descended from the family of John Alden (the fellow made famous in Longfellow’s poem “The Courtship of Miles Standish”).

Do you have a Monroe connection in your family?

Is there a Mayflower passenger somewhere in your family tree? Could you be related to Marilyn Monroe?

Start your family search below.

– Samantha Johnson