In 1936 Margaret Mitchell published her one and only book, "Gone With the Wind". It was such a sensation that it almost immediately developed a cult following. Hollywood grabbed it and made a movie in 1939. The movie is still considered one of the greatest films ever made, and it was just a taste of the book. Scarlett … [Read more...] about Gone With the Wind
Born in 1900, Margaret Mitchell started out life as the privileged little girl of a well to do Southern family. When she was very little an accident involving a gate and a fire, made her mother determine to never let her wear dresses. Until Margaret was fourteen, she wore pants and was referred to as Jimmy. Her brother refused to play with anyone who wasn't named Jimmy. Her brother categorized her as a tomboy. During this time, she was already making up stories.
She started with stories about animals, moved to fairy tales and adventure stories. Some of these stories have been preserved, and are now in print, "Before Scarlett: Girlhood Writings of Margaret Mitchell". An avid reader, she would curl up on the breezy front porch of her family's Victorian home, in Atlanta, Georgia. When she was twelve years old the family moved from Jackson Hill to the most affluent neighborhood of Peachtree Street.
All through school, Margaret wrote. She wrote stories and plays, then when her mother passed away, Margaret finished the school year, and went home to take care of her father. There were domestic and social functions that the world thought only a woman could fill. It didn't matter that her mother had wanted Margaret to get an education. Feeling that she might succumb to the 'Spanish flu' of 1918, Margaret's mother's last words to her were in a brief note, "Give of yourself with both hands and overflowing heart, but give only the excess after you have lived your own life."
Margaret had also just lost the love of her life, Lt. Clifford West Henry. He was killed in action in France, and she was devastated.
A debutante and a member of society in Atlanta, Margaret had certain criteria she was to follow in order to be termed a 'lady'. She did not follow the rules. Margaret scandalized the society matrons by dancing the tango and flirting outrageously. Although many men professed their love for her, she never misled any of them, but, found herself engaged to five different men.
In 1922, she was seriously dating two men, Berrien "Red" Upshaw and his roommate and friend, John R. Marsh. She finally married Red, but then she discovered he was an abusive drunk, so she divorced him in 1924. Then in 1925, she married John Marsh. During this time, Margaret was working as a reporter for The Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine. Since journalism was not the 'thing to do' in her social circle, Margaret received no support from family and friends. But, her stories proved to be successful. Especially, the story about Rudolph Valentino, who she tangoed with, and the last surviving bridesmaid at the wedding of Theodore Roosevelt.
In May of 1926, Margaret hurt her ankle severely. Because of this, she had to leave her job as a journalist. Through boredom, she had her husband stop at the library to bring books home to her almost daily. Finally, fed up, he suggested she just write her own book. Thus, "Gone With the Wind" was born.
When it was finally published, the success of the book was phenomenal. Margaret never wrote another because the aftermath of this book kept her extremely busy. Her book was to become a movie. The producers wanted her input, and her experience writing plays and the stories she grew up with of the Old South, the Civil War and it's aftermath, were needed. The premier of "Gone With the Wind" movie was aired in Atlanta. Margaret and her husband were there, including some Civil War Vets. She took the time to shake all their hands.
Margaret Mitchell was an extremely gracious woman. After her book spread across the world, she received millions of fan letters and tried to personally answer every one. She was asked to christian ships, open factories, etc. She became Atlanta's in-house celebrity and lent her name to charities and causes. During World War II, Margaret corresponded with soldiers, trying to keep their morale up. She volunteered at the Red Cross and sold War Bonds. She even sewed hospital gowns.
Then on August 11, 1949, when Margaret was only 48 years old, she was struck by a drunk driver while crossing the street with her husband on their way to see a movie. The driver was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and only sentenced to eighteen months in jail. He served eleven months.