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Steve Jobs, Marilyn Monroe and Six Other Famous Orphans Who Helped Change the World

Updated on July 26, 2017
Timothy Anderson profile image

Tim Anderson is a freelance writer/researcher with articles published in The Saturday Evening Post, Playboy magazine, TV Guide and others.

Steve Jobs -- Visionary
Steve Jobs -- Visionary

1. Steve Jobs

Steven Jobs was the illegitimate son of a Syrian Muslim Addulfattah Jandali and an American college student at the University of Wisconsin, Joanne Schieble.

He was born in 1955, but due to family in-fighting, his parents never married and Joanne left Wisconsin to deliver her son in San Francisco where she chose to place him in an adoption facility. He was soon adopted by Clara and Paul Jobs, a middle-class American couple after they promised his mother Joanne they would send him to college when he grew up.

Young Steven grew up in Mountain View, California where he loved to hang around his foster dad's garage workshop. Sometimes described by fellow classmates as a "loner," Steve became interested in electronics, an interest shared with one of his few friends, Steve Wozniak.

By 1976, the two Steves had collaborated to create and market the Apple I computer, and a year later introduced the Apple II. Today the company is worth around $750 billion, which is more than the gross national product of Switzerland, and now worth more than Google and Microsoft combined.

Steve Jobs died in 2011 at age 56 from pancreatic cancer. If you'd like to know more about the amazing life of this amazing man, do a simple Google or Yahoo search "Steve Jobs biography," and you'll find many fascinating Steve Jobs books and articles!

HD Trailer for the Steve Jobs Movie

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2. Marilyn Monroe

Her birth name was Norma Jean Mortenson and her mother, Gladys Mortenson had named her baby girl after one of her favorite female movie stars, Norma Talmadge. While Norma Jean's 1926 birth certificate listed Glady's first husband Edward Mortenson as the infant's father, in fact, it is now commonly believed it was her second husband, C. Stanley Gifford, who fathered the child.

However, neither man played a role in the upbringing of the young girl and mother Gladys began suffering from mental illness before being placed in a psychiatric institution. Norma Jean was shuttled around between foster homes and an orphanage, and to add to her biological confusion, she was sometimes known as Norma Jean Baker, the surname of her mother's first husband. Unfortunately, the lass was already strikingly beautiful and this brought her undue attention at an early age. She will later share stories of being sexually assaulted and raped when she was eleven.

Norma Jean's eventual escape from her horrible childhood was to get married at age 16 to a merchant marine named James Dougherty. While her hubby was in the South Pacific, Norma Jean had begun a successful career as a model and changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. She divorced Dougherty in 1946, and in a few years this orphan movie star would become the most successful and iconic sex symbol in Hollywood history, and her nude photograph as Playboy magazine's first centerfold will launch the publishing career of Hugh Hefner.

Marilyn Monroe died from an alleged drug overdose in 1962.

Marilyn On The Big Screen

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Marilyn Singing in Some Like It Hot

3. Simon Bolivar

Often referred to as South America's "George Washington," Simon Bolivar was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1783, the youngest child of Juan Vicente de Bolivar, and Maria de la Concepcion Palacios y Blanco.

The Bolivar family was socially prominent in the region controlled by Spain, but as an infant he was entrusted to the care of a family slave. He lost his father before he turned three, and six years later his mother when he was only nine. After being shuttled back-and-forth between caregivers, young Simon eventually came under the care of another black slave woman named "Hipolita," and she saw to his daily needs while he attended local schools and developed into a young man. Bolivar will later describe her as the "only mother I have ever known."

When he was just fourteen, Bolivar had to flee Venezuela with his mentor Simon Rodriquez who had been accused of conspiring against the Spanish. He attended the military academy of the Milicias de Veraguas where he learned the military skills which he would one day employ when he led his South American armies against the colonial Spanish.

Bolivar, orphaned before his tenth birthday, would go one to become the "great liberator" and free millions of South Americans from colonial rule before passing away from tuberculosis in 1830 at the age of 47.

A Brief Two-Minute Simon Bolivar Biography

His Final Resting Place


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Eleanor Roosevelt -- First Lady
Eleanor Roosevelt -- First Lady

4. Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt holds the distinction of being one of America's most beloved First Ladies.

Born in New York City in 1884, she was a shy and withdrawn child, losing her mother to diphtheria when she was eight, and then her father two years later who'd been confined to a sanitarium for alcoholism. After being cared for by her maternal grandmother, when she turned 15 she was sent to a private school in England.

While in England, Eleanor's uncle Theodore Roosevelt became president of the United States and she returned in 1902 where she met her father's fifth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and they would marry several years later.

Eleanor Roosevelt became America's First Lady in 1933 when her husband was elected the 32nd President of the United States and she would diligently work for various social causes and help calm jittery Americans during World War II. The donation of her time and efforts to help her fellow Americans through this trying time won her international acclaim and admiration.

After leaving the White House following FDR's death in 1945, Eleanor spent the rest of her life promoting various charity, social and human rights issues. She passed away in 1962 at the age of 78 from heart failure.

5. Malcolm X

He was born in Nebraska in 1925, the son of Earl and Louise Little, and given the name Malcolm. His father was a Baptist preacher who, after receiving threats from the local KKK, moved his family to Milwaukee, Wisconsin while Malcolm was still a baby.

The little boy was just six when his father was killed in what was officially described as a streetcar accident, but his mother claimed it was a racial-motivated murder. Louise struggled to raise her children by herself, but suffered a nervous breakdown in 1938 and was sent to Michigan's Kalamazoo State Hospital where she would spend the next 24 years.

This young black orphan and his siblings were separated and sent to various foster homes and orphanages and Malcolm ended up living with a half-sister in Boston. However, in his early 20s he began a life of crime: robbing, pimping, gambling and drug dealing which eventually caught up with him. In 1946 he was sentenced to to the state prison for breaking and entering, and larceny.

It was in prison where Malcolm began studying Islam and signing his name as "Malcolm X," saying the "X" symbolized his African ancestry since the name "Little" had been given to his family by white slave masters.

Paroled in 1952, Malcolm X became a devotee of Elijah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam's leader and soon became its most popular public figure after Muhammad. Unfortunately, this would eventually cause a serious rift between the two men. In 1964 Malcolm X resigned his membership in the Nation of Islam and the following year he was gunned down in Manhattan as he was preparing to give a speech.

Malcolm X Reveals the Mistakes White People Make With "Negroes."

Edgar Allen Poe
Edgar Allen Poe

6. Edgar Allan Poe

The "Father of Detective Fiction," Edgar Allan Poe loved to write short stories and poems that dealt in the macabre. His poem, The Raven was an overnight success. Some of his other literary successes were The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

Born Edgar Poe in 1809 in Boston to David and Elizabeth Poe, his actor-father left the family when Edgar was just four, and the following year he lost his mother to the ravages of tuberculosis.

A Scottish merchant by the name of John Allan who lived in Virginia took the lad into his home and provided food, shelter, and education. Allan's home was basically a one-man orphan charity center.

However, the relationship was somewhat tumultuous, even though the elder Allan gave the boy his middle name and assisted in his schooling. It was at this point in his life that the young writer would begin to call himself Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe began writing his creepy poems and short stories, and may well have been the first American to attempt to live on his writing income. But financial success eluded him and his life was largely unhappy and morose. A heavy drinker, in October 1849 he was found wandering the streets of Baltimore and taken to a local hospital where he died a few days later at the age of 40.

7. Faith Hill

Faith Hill is another successful person we can add to our list of celebrity adoptions. She was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1967 to Paula and Edwin White, but adopted as a baby by a factory worker named Ted Perry, and his wife Edna, who worked as a bank teller in Star, Mississippi. Many years later Faith will seek out her natural birth parents, eventually finding her mother and also learning her birth father died in a car accident around her 10th birthday.

Her vocal talents were evident as she became a little girl and she did her first public singing when she was just seven. After turning 19, Hill moved to Nashville to pursue her singing dreams and would work selling T-shirts, as a secretary, and finally as a counter girl at McDonald's before a Warner Bros. Records executive signed her to a contract.

Today Faith Hill is married to fellow singer Tim McGraw. They are the parents of three daughters, and they make their home just outside of Nashville.

Is This Faith Hill's Sexiest Video?

Hill's Chart-Topping Hits


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John Lennon and Paul McCartney
John Lennon and Paul McCartney

8. John Lennon

Considered one of the greatest songwriters ever, Beatle guitarist John Lennon was born in 1940, and raised in Liverpool, England by his aunt and uncle, Mimi and George Smith. His birth parents were Alfred and Julia Lennon, and their marriage was tumultuous and unhappy. When he was just five, his parents had separated and young John was forced to chose which parent he preferred to live with. Ultimately, he went to live with Auntie Mimi and he'd be 25 and world famous before seeing his father again.

Lennon attended public schools in Liverpool and the intellectual orphan trained himself on learning how to play a guitar. In 1956 when Lennon was just 15, he formed a band called The Quarrymen. His friend Paul McCartney was invited to join the group, and he in turn brought in a friend of his named George Harrison. After several band member changes, Ringo Starr finally completed the group.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney would soon become the most successful songwriters in world history, and The Beatles became the greatest band to ever perform.

Lennon died at age 40 in New York City in 1980 when he was shot by a crazed fan.

Early Recording of The Quarrymen

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© 2016 Tim Anderson

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