Margaret Mitchell – creator of legend
Margaret Mitchell was the author of Gone With the Wind, one of the most popular books of all time. The novel was published in 1936 and sold more than a million copies in the first six months. It has been translated into twenty-seven languages. In 1937 Mitchell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
Margaret Mitchell was born on November 8, 1900 in Atlanta. Her mother, Mary Isabelle Stephens was of Irish-Catholic ancestry. Her father, Eugene Muse Mitchell, descended from Scotch- Irish and French Huguenots. Her mother was fond of reading and encouraged her daughter to write her own stories. Margaret wrote spooky ghost tales and short skits, and Margaret usually cast herself as the hero. Margaret’s mother was a devout Catholic. She was one of the founders of the League of Women Voters in Georgia and often took Margaret to suffragette rallies.
Margaret was a lively and spirited girl with a great sense of humor. In June 1918 she graduated from Washington Seminary and wanted to enter Smith College in Massachusetts. That summer she met and fell in love with Lt. Clifford Henry. Soon she received word that Clifford died in battle.
Her mother died of pneumonia on January 25, 1919. So, Margaret had to take care of her father and at the age of nineteen became the mistress of the house.
In 1922 Mitchell had become a feature writer for the Atlanta Journal.
In 1922, Margaret married ex-football player and bootlegger, Berrien “Red” Upshaw, in spite of her father and brother’s disapproval. Upshaw was a violent and dangerous man, and he left only a few months into the marriage. He is often regarded as the prototype of Gone With the Wind’s Rhett Butler.
On July 4, 1925 Margaret married John Marsh. On May 3, 1926 Mitchell left her job to devote her time to being a wife to John. During this time she began writing fiction and John soon became her editor.
Early in 1927 Margaret began work on Gone with the Wind. It was a love story as well as a fictionalized account of Civil War history. It tells the story of Scarlett O’Hara, whose father owns a plantation named Tara during the Civil War and Reconstruction. She falls in love with Ashley Wilkes, a neighbor, who loves and marries the virtuous Melanie Hamilton. Scarlett marries Melanie’s brother, Charles, who soon dies of various diseases after enlisting in the Confederate Army. To save the ruined plantation Scarlett marries again, and is again widowed when her husband is slain leading a Ku Klux Klan attack on the Black section of Atlanta. Later she marries Rhett Butler, a dashing and dangerous man who has loved her for years and whose wealth will ensure her ownership of Tara.
On January 22, 1936 Gone with the Wind was officially completed. She never did write another story.
Margaret was extremely proud when she received an honorary Master of Arts Degree from Smith College and the Pulitzer Prize in 1937.
On December 15, 1939 the movie was premiered in Atlanta. Gone with the Wind won Best Picture of 1939. It won ten Academy Awards in 1940 and was the world’s highest grossing picture for over 20 years.
On August 11, 1949 Margaret and John were on their way to see a movie, as they were crossing Peachtree Street Margaret was struck by a drunk driver. She died on August 16 never regaining consciousness.
With Gone With the Wind Margaret brought a promising message to all people – “Tomorrow is another day.”