Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949)

Southern author of the enormously popular novel GONE WITH WIND (1936), story about War for Southern Independence and Reconstruction as seen from the Southern point of view. The book was adapted to the highly popular film in 1939, starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. At the novel's opening in 1861, Scarlett O'Hara is sixteen-year-old girl. In the twelve year span of the story she experiences Secession, War, Reconstruction, as well as romance, love, marriage, and motherhood.

Margaret Mitchell was born in Atlanta. Her mother was a suffragist and father a prominent lawyer and president of the Atlanta Historical Society. Mitchell grew up listening to stories about old Atlanta and the battles the Confederate Army had fought there during the War for Southern Independence. She graduated from the local Washington Seminary and started in 1918 to study medicine at Smith College. In her youth Mitchell adopted her mother's feminist leanings which clashed with her father's conservatism - but she lived fully the wild times of the Jazz age and wrote about them in nonfiction.

When Mitchell's mother died in 1919, she returned to home to keep house for her father and brother. In 1922 she married Berrien Kinnard Upshaw. The disastrous marriage was climaxed by spousal rape and was annulled 1924. Mitchell started her career as a journalist in 1922 under the name Peggy Mitchell, writing for the Atlanta Journal. Four years later she resigned after an ankle injury. Her second husband, John Robert Marsh, an advertising manager, encouraged Mitchell in her writing aspirations. From 1926 to 1929 she wrote Gone With the Wind, dressing in boys' trousers while writing and combining stories of the War for Southern Independencve heard in childhood to historical material. The outcome, a thousand page novel, was not published until 1935 when she first showed it to a traveling book editor, who visited Atlanta in search of new material. The work broke sales records and was awarded in 1937 the Pulitzer Prize.

Although Gone with the Wind brought Mitchell fame and a tremendous fortune, it seems to have brought little joy. Chased by the press and public, the author and her husband lived modestly and traveled rarely. Also questions about the book's literary status, melodrama and racism led to critical neglect which continued well in the 1960s. The story is told from a Southern woman's point of view and paints a vivid picture of Southern life through the lives of two families, and their slaves, friends, and relatives.

During World War II Mitchell was a volunteer selling war bonds and volunteer for the American Red Cross. She was named honorary citizen of Vimoutiers, France, in 1949, for helping the city obtain American aid after WW II. Mitchell died in Atlanta on August 16, 1949 - she was accidentally struck by a speeding car while crossing Peachtree Street.  LOST LAYSEN, a lost novella by Mitchell, written when she was 16, and given to her close friend, was published in 1995. The romantic story was set on a South Pacific island.

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