When Marilyn Monroe aka Norma Jeane was declared a ward of the state, her unfit mother Gladys's best friend, Grace Goddard (nee McKee) (Jan. 1, 1895 - Sep. 28, 1953), became her guardian. It was Grace who told Monroe that someday she would become a movie star. Grace was captivated by Jean Harlow, and would let Norma Jeane wear makeup and take her out to get her hair curled. They would go to the movies together, forming the basis for Norma Jeane's fascination with the cinema and the stars on screen.
When Norma Jeane was 9, McKee married Ervin Silliman "Doc" Goddard in 1935, and subsequently sent Monroe to the Los Angeles Orphans Home (later renamed Hollygrove), followed by a succession of foster homes. While at Hollygrove, several families were interested in adopting her; however, reluctance on Gladys' part to sign adoption papers thwarted those attempts. In 1937, Monroe moved back into Grace and Doc Goddard's house, joining Doc's daughter from a previous marriage. Reportedly, due to Doc's frequent attempts to sexually assault Norma Jeane, this arrangement did not last long.
Grace sent Monroe to live with her great-aunt, Olive Brunings, in Compton, California; this was also a brief stint ended by an assault (some reports say it was sexual) when one of Olive's sons had attacked the now middle-school-aged girl. Biographers and psychologists have questioned whether at least some of Norma Jeane's later behavior (i.e., hypersexuality, sleep disturbances, substance abuse, disturbed interpersonal relationships), was a manifestation of the effects of childhood sexual abuse in the context of her already problematic relationships with her psychiatrically ill mother and subsequent caregivers.
In early 1938, Grace sent her to live with yet another one of her aunts, Ana Lower, who lived in the Van Nuys area of Los Angeles County. Years later, she would reflect fondly about the time that she spent with Lower, whom she affectionately called "Aunt Ana." She would explain that it was one of the only times in her life when she felt truly stable. As she aged, however, Lower developed serious health problems.
In 1942, Monroe moved back to Grace and Doc Goddard's house. While attending Van Nuys High School, she met a neighbor's son, James Dougherty (more commonly referred to as simply "Jim"), and began a relationship with him. Several months later, Grace and Doc Goddard decided to relocate to Virginia, where Doc had received a lucrative job offer. Although it was never explained why, they decided not to take Monroe with them.
Grace Goddard died on September 28, 1953. She was interred at Westwood Village Cemetery.