'This rare snapshot of Marilyn Monroe, as she became known, was taken in 1942 shortly after Norma Jeane Baker married James Dougherty. She was 16 at the time; Dougherty was 21 and her neighbor. "She was a sweet, generous, and religious girl...she liked to be cuddled", said Dougherty. By all accounts the couple were happy together until he joined the Merchant Marines and was sent to the South Pacific in 1944.
Norma Jeane took a job on the assembly line at the Radio Plane factory in Burbank, California. Several months later, photographer David Conover saw her while taking pictures for Yank magazine of women contributing to the war effort. Within two years she was a successful model with several popular magazine covers to her credit.
In June 1946, Dougherty returned from service and Monroe had to choose between marriage and career. She signed her first studio contract with Twentieth Century Fox on August 26, 1946. Soon after, Norma Jeane dyed her hair blonde and changed her name to Marilyn Monroe, borrowing her grandmother's last name.
I acquired this photograph from the collection of George Zeno, a noted Monroe expert who co-authored (with James Spada) Marilyn Monroe: Her Life in Pictures'. -- James Danziger