Margaret Mitchell was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in November 1900. After a broken
ankle immobilized her in 1926, Mitchell started writing a novel that would
become Gone With the Wind. Published in
With the Windmade Mitchell an instant celebrity and earned her the Pulitzer
Prize. The film version, also lauded far and wide, came out just three years
later. More than 30 million copies of Mitchell’s Civil War masterpiece have been
sold worldwide, and it has been translated into 27 languages. Mitchell was
struck by a car and died in 1949, leaving behind Gone
With the Wind as her only novel.
Margaret Mitchell was born on November 8, 1900, in Atlanta, Georgia, into an
Irish-Catholic family. At an early age, even before she could write, Mitchell
loved to make up stories, and she would later write her own adventure books,
crafting their covers out of cardboard. She wrote hundreds of books as a child,
but her literary endeavors weren’t limited to novels and stories: At the private
Woodberry School, Mitchell took her creativity in new directions, directing and
acting in plays she wrote.
In 1918, Mitchell enrolled at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Four
months later, tragedy would strike when Mitchell’s mother died of influenza.
Mitchell finished out her freshman year at Smith and then returned to Atlanta to
prepare for the upcoming debutante season, during which she met Berrien Kinnard
Upshaw. The couple was married in 1922, but it ended abruptly four months later
when Upshaw left for the Midwest and never returned.
Gone With the
The same year she was married, Mitchell landed a job with the Atlanta
Journal Sunday magazine, where
she ended up writing nearly 130 articles. Mitchell would get married a second
time during this period, wedding John Robert Marsh in 1925. As seemed to be the
case in Mitchell’s life, though, yet another good thing was to come to an end
too quickly, as her journalist career ended in 1926 due to complications from a
With her broken ankle keeping Mitchell off her feet, however, in 1926 she began
With the Wind. Perched at an old sewing table, and writing the last chapter
first and the other chapters randomly, she finished most of the book by 1929. A
romantic novel about the Civil War and Reconstruction, Gone With the Wind is
told from a Southern point of view, informed by Mitchell’s family and steeped in
the history of the South and the tragedy of the war.
In July 1935, New York publisher Macmillan offered her a $500 advance and 10
percent royalty payments. Mitchell set to finalizing the manuscript, changing
characters names (Scarlett was Pansy in earlier drafts), cutting and rearranging
chapters and finally naming the book Gone
With the Wind, a phrase from “Cynara!, a favorite Ernest Dowson poem. Gone
With the Windwas published in 1936 to huge success and took home the 1937
Pulitzer. Mitchell became an overnight celebrity, and the landmark film based on
her novel came out just three years later and went on to become a classic
(winning eight Oscars and two special Oscars ).
During World War II (1941-45), Mitchell had no time to write, as she worked for
the American Red Cross. And on August 11, 1949, she was struck by a car while
crossing a street and died five days later. Mitchell was inducted into Georgia
Women of Achievement in 1994 and into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2000. Gone
With the Wind was her only
Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell (November
8, 1900 – August 16, 1949) was an American author and journalist. One novel by
was published during her lifetime, the American
with the Wind,
for which she won the National
Most Distinguished Novel of 1936 and
Prize for Fiction in
1937. In more recent years, a collection of
Mitchell's girlhood writings and a novella she wrote as a teenager, Lost
have been published. A collection of articles
written by Mitchell for The
Atlanta Journal was
republished in book form.
Margaret Mitchell was a Southerner and a lifelong resident
and native of Atlanta, Georgia.
She was born in 1900 into a wealthy and politically prominent family. Her
father, Eugene Muse Mitchell, was an attorney, and her mother, Mary Isabel "May
Belle" (or "Maybelle") Stephens, was a suffragist.
She had two brothers, Russell Stephens Mitchell, who died in infancy in 1894,
and Alexander Stephens Mitchell, born in 1896.
Mitchell's family on her father's side were descendants of
Thomas Mitchell, originally of Aberdeenshire,
Scotland, who settled in Wilkes
County, Georgia in 1777, and
served in the American
Revolutionary War. Her grandfather, Russell Crawford Mitchell, of Atlanta,
enlisted in theConfederate
States Army on June 24, 1861 and
served in Hood's
Texas Brigade. He was severely wounded at the Battle
of Sharpsburg, demoted for 'inefficiency,' and detailed as a nurse in
Atlanta. After the Civil War, he made a large
fortune supplying lumber for the rapid rebuilding of Atlanta. Russell Mitchell
had thirteen children from two wives; the eldest was Eugene, who graduated from
of Georgia Law School.
Mitchell's maternal great-grandfather Philip Fitzgerald
emigrated from Ireland, and eventually settled on a slaveholding plantation near Jonesboro,
Georgia, where he had one son and seven daughters with his wife, Elenor.
Mitchell's grandparents, married in 1863, were Annie Fitzgerald and John
Stephens, who had also emigrated from Ireland and was a Captain in the
Confederate States Army. John Stephens was a prosperous real estate developer
after the Civil War and one of the founders of the Gate
City Street Railroad (1881), a
trolley system. John and Annie Stephens had twelve children together; the
seventh child was May Belle Stephens, who married Eugene Mitchell. May
Belle Stephens had studied at the Bellevue Convent in Quebec and completed her
education at the Atlanta Female Institute.
The Atlanta Constitution reported
that May Belle Stephens and Eugene Mitchell were married at the Jackson Street
mansion of the bride's parents on November 8, 1892:
→Thomas Mitchell & Mary Ann Barnett
Ann Dudley 1808–1859 (at least 9 children—only Russell shown below)
|→William Mitchell 1777–1859 & Eleanor Thomasson 1781–1860 (11
children—only Isaac shown below)
|→Isaac Green Mitchell 1819–1881
|→Russell Crawford Mitchell 1837–1905 & Deborah Margaret Sweet
1847–1887 (Margaret Mitchell's paternal grandparents had 11
children—only Eugene shown below)
|→Eugene Muse Mitchell 1866–1944 &
May Belle Stephens 1872–1919 (Margaret Mitchell's parents
had 3 children—shown below)
|→Russell Stephens Mitchell 1894–1894
|→Alexander Stephens "Stephens" Mitchell 1896–1983
|→Margaret Munnerlyn "Peggy" Mitchell 1900–1949
|→Sarah "Sis" Fitzgerald 1848–1928
→James Fitzgerald 1759–1836 & Margaret O'Donnell (at
least 9 children—only Philip shown below)
Elenor Avaline McGhan 1818–1893 (3 of their 8 children shown below)
|→Philip Fitzgerald 1798–1880
|→Mary Ellen "Mamie" Fitzgerald 1840–1926
|→Annie Elizabeth Fitzgerald 1844–1934 & John Stephens 1833–1896
(Margaret Mitchell's maternal grandparents had 12 children—2 are
|→Annie E. Stephens 1868–1910
|→Mary Isabel "May Belle" Stephens
1872–1919 & Eugene Muse Mitchell 1866–1944
Margaret Mitchell spent her early childhood on Jackson
Hill, east of downtown Atlanta. Her family lived
near her grandmother, Annie Stephens, in a Victorian
house painted bright red with yellow trim. Mrs.
Stephens had been a widow for several years prior to Margaret's birth; Captain
John Stephens died in 1896. After his death, she
inherited property on Jackson Street where Margaret's family lived.
Grandmother Annie Stephens was quite a character, both
vulgar and a tyrant. After gaining control of her father Philip Fitzgerald's
money after he died, she splurged on her younger daughters, including Margaret's
mother, and sent them to finishing
school in the north. There they
learned that Irish
Americans were not treated as
equal to other immigrants, and that it was shameful to be a daughter of an
Irishman. Margaret's relationship with her
grandmother would become quarrelsome in later years as she entered adulthood.
However, for Margaret, her grandmother was a great source of "eye-witness
information" about the Civil War and Reconstruction in Atlanta prior to her
death in 1934.
In an accident that was traumatic for her mother although she was unharmed, when
little Margaret was about three years old, her dress caught fire on an iron
grate. Fearing it would happen again, her mother began dressing her in boys'
pants, and she was nicknamed "Jimmy", the name of a character in the comic
Jimmy. Her brother insisted she
would have to be a boy named Jimmy to play with him. Having no sisters to play
with, Margaret said she was a boy named Jimmy until she was fourteen.
Stephens Mitchell said his sister was a tomboy who
would happily play with dolls occasionally, and she liked to ride her Texas
plains pony. As a little girl,
Margaret went riding every afternoon with a Confederate veteran and a young lady
Margaret was raised in an era when children were "seen and
not heard". She was not allowed to express her personality by running and
screaming on Sunday afternoons while her family was visiting relatives. Her
mother would swat her with a hairbrush or a slipper as a form of discipline.
May Belle Mitchell was "hissing blood curdling threats" to her daughter to make
her behave the evening she took her to a women's
suffrage rally led by Carrie
Chapman Catt. Margaret sat on a
platform wearing a Votes-for-Women banner
blowing kisses to the gentlemen while her mother gave an impassioned speech. She
was nineteen years old when the Nineteenth
Amendment was ratified, which
gave women the right to vote.
May Belle Mitchell was president of the Atlanta Woman's Suffrage League (1915),
chairwoman of press publicity for the Georgia Mothers' Congress and Parent
Teacher Association, a member of the Pioneer Society, the Atlanta
Woman's Club, and several church and literary societies.
Margaret's father was not in favor of corporal punishment in school. During his
tenure as president of the educational board (1911–1912) corporal
punishment in the public schools was abolished. Reportedly, Eugene Mitchell
received a whipping on the first day he attended school and the mental
impression of the threshing lasted far longer than the physical marks.
Jackson Hill was an old, affluent part of the city. At
the bottom of Jackson Hill was an area of African
American homes and businesses
The mayhem of the Atlanta
Race Riot occurred over four days
in September 1906 when Mitchell was five years old.Local newspapers alleged that
several white women had been assaulted by black men, prompting
an angry mob of 10,000 to assemble in the streets.
Eugene Mitchell went to bed early the night the rioting
began, but was awakened by the sounds of gunshots. The following morning he
learned 16 Negroes had been killed. He wrote to his wife that rioters attempted
to kill every Negro in sight. As the rioting continued, rumors ran wild Negroes
would burn Jackson Hill. At Margaret's suggestion,
her father, who did not own a gun, stood guard with a sword.Though
she and her family were unharmed, Margaret was able to recall the terror she
felt during the riot twenty years later. Mitchell
grew up in a Southern culture where the threat of black on white rape incited
mob violence, and in this world, white Georgians lived in fear of the "black
Soon after the riot, Margaret's family decided to move away
from Jackson Hill.
In 1912, they moved to the east side of Peachtree Street
just north of Seventeenth Street in Atlanta. Past the nearest neighbor's house
was forest and beyond it the Chattahoochee
River. Mitchell's former Jackson Hill home was
destroyed in the Great
Atlanta Fire of 1917.
While "the South" exists as a geographical region of the
United States, it is also said to exist as "a place of the imagination" of
writers. An image of "the South" was fixed in
Mitchell's imagination when at six years old her mother took her on a buggy tour
through ruined plantations and "Sherman's sentinels", the
brick and stone chimneys that remained after William
Tecumseh Sherman's "March and
torch" through Georgia. Mitchell would later recall
what her mother had said to her:
From an imagination cultivated in her youth, Margaret
Mitchell's defensive weapon would become her writing.
Mitchell said she heard Civil War stories from her relatives when she was
On summer vacations, she visited her maternal great-aunts,
Mary Ellen ("Mamie") Fitzgerald and Sarah ("Sis") Fitzgerald, who still lived at
her great-grandparents' plantation home in Jonesboro. Mamie
had been twenty-one years old and Sis was thirteen when the Civil War began.
An avid reader, young Margaret read "boys' stories" by G.A.
Henty, the Tom
Swift series, and the Rover
Boys series by Edward
Stratemeyer. Her mother read Mary
Johnston's novels to her before she could read. They both wept reading
Johnston's The Long Roll (1911)
and Cease Firing (1912). Between
the "scream of shells, the mighty onrush of charges, the grim and grisly
aftermath of war", Cease Firing is
a romance novel involving the courtship of a Confederate soldier and a Louisiana
plantation belle with Civil War illustrations by N.
C. Wyeth. She also read the plays of William
Shakespeare, and novels by Charles
Dickens and Sir
Mitchell's two favorite children's books were by author Edith
Children and It (1902) and The
Phoenix and the Carpet (1904).
She kept both on her bookshelf even as an adult and gave them as gifts.
An imaginative writer from a precocious age, Margaret
Mitchell began with stories about animals, then progressed to fairy tales and
adventure stories. She fashioned book covers for her stories, bound the tablet
paper pages together and added her own artwork. At age eleven she gave a name to
her publishing enterprise: "Urchin Publishing Co." Later her stories were
written in notebooks. May Belle Mitchell kept her
daughter's stories in white enamel bread boxes and several boxes of her stories
were stored in the house by the time Margaret went off to college.
"Margaret" is a character riding a galloping pony in The
Little Pioneers, and plays "Cowboys
and Indians" in When We Were
Romantic love and honor emerged as themes of abiding
interest for Mitchell in The Knight
and the Lady (ca. 1909), in which a
and a "bad knight" duel for the hand of the lady. In The
Arrow Brave and the Deer Maiden (ca.
1913), a half-white Indian brave, Jack, must withstand the pain inflicted upon
him to uphold his honor and win the girl. The same
themes were treated with increasing artistry in Lost
Laysen, the novella Mitchell wrote as a teenager in 1916, and,
with much greater sophistication, in Mitchell's last known novel, Gone
with the Wind, which she began in 1926.
In her pre-teens, Mitchell also wrote stories set in
foreign locations, such as The
Greaser (1913), a cowboy story
set in Mexico. In 1913 she wrote two stories with
Civil War settings; one includes her notation that "237 pages are in this book".
Fancy Dress Masquerade
and boys were the guests of Miss Margaret Mitchell at a fancy dress
masquerade yesterday afternoon at the home of her parents Mr. and
Mrs. Eugene Mitchell on Peachtree street and the occasion was
beautiful and enjoyable.
There was a
prize for guessing the greatest number of identities under the
masks, and another for the guest who best concealed his or her
The pretty young
hostess was a demure Martha Washington in flowered crepe gown over a
pink silk petticoat and her powdered hair was worn high.
wore a ruby velvet gown.
The Constitution, Atlanta, November 21, 1914.
While the Great
War carried on in Europe
(1914–1918), Margaret Mitchell attended Atlanta's Washington Seminary (now The
Westminster Schools), a "fashionable" private girls' school with an
enrollment of over 300 students. She was very active
in the Drama Club. Mitchell played the male
Bottom in Shakespeare's A
Midsummer Night's Dream and
Launcelot Gobbo in Shakespeare's The
Merchant of Venice, among others. She wrote a play about snobbish college
girls that she acted in as well. She also joined the
Literary Club and had two stories published in the yearbook: Little
Sister and Sergeant
Terry. Ten-year-old "Peggy" is the heroine in Little
Sister. She hears her older sister being raped and shoots the rapist:
Mitchell received encouragement from her English teacher,
Mrs. Paisley, who recognized her writing talent. A
demanding teacher, Paisley told her she had ability if she worked hard and would
not be careless in constructing sentences. A sentence, she said, must be
"complete, concise and coherent".
Mitchell read the books of Thomas
Dixon, Jr., and in 1916, when the silent film, The
Birth of a Nation, was showing in Atlanta, she dramatized Dixon's The
Traitor: A Story of the Fall of the Invisible Empire (1907). As
both playwright and
actress, she took the role of Steve Hoyle. For the
production, she made a Ku
Klux Klan costume from a white
crepe dress and wore a boy's wig.(Note: Dixon
rewrote The Traitor as The
Black Hood (1924) and Steve Hoyle was
renamed George Wilkes.)
During her years at Washington Seminary, Mitchell's
brother, Stephens, was away studying at Harvard
College (1915–1917), and he left
in May 1917 to enlist in the army, about a month after the U.S. declared war on
Germany. He set sail for France in April 1918, participated in engagements in
the Lagny and Marbache sectors, then returned to Georgia in October as a
training instructor. While Margaret and her mother
were in New York in September 1918 preparing for Margaret to attend college,
Stephens wired his father that he was safe after his ship had been torpedoed en
route to New York from France.
Stephens Mitchell thought college was the "ruination of
girls". However, May Belle Mitchell placed a high
value on education for women and she wanted her daughter's future
accomplishments to come from using her mind. She saw education as Margaret's
weapon and "the key to survival". The classical
college education she desired for her daughter was one that was on par with
men's colleges, and this type of education was available only at northern
schools. Her mother chose Smith
Northampton, Massachusetts for
Margaret because she considered it to be the best women's college in the United
Upon graduating from Washington Seminary in June 1918,
Mitchell fell in love with a Harvard graduate, a young army lieutenant, Clifford
West Henry, who was chief bayonet instructor at Camp
Gordon from May 10 until the time
he set sail for France on July 17. Henry was
"slightly effeminate", "ineffectual", and "rather effete-looking" with "homosexual tendencies",
according to biographer Anne
Edwards. Before departing for France, he gave Mitchell an engagement ring.
On September 14, while she was enrolled at Smith College,
Henry was mortally wounded in action in France and died on October 17. As
Henry waited in the Verdun trenches, shortly before being wounded, he composed a
poem on a leaf torn from his field notebook, found later among his effects. The
last stanza of Lieutenant Clifford W. Henry's poem follows:
General Edwards Presents Medal
Mrs. Ira Henry
of Sound Beach was presented the Distinguished Service medal from
the War department today in honor of her son, Captain Clifford W.
Henry for bravery under fire during the World war. The medal,
recommended by General Pershing, was presented by Major General
who during the war was a lieutenant with Co.F, 102nd infantry,
captured the town of Vignuelles, nine kilometers inside the
Hindenburg line on September 13, 1918. Lieutenant Henry and 50 of
his men were killed the next day by a terrific explosion in the
town. Captain Henry was a graduate of Harvard University.
The Bridgeport Telegram, July 4, 1927.
Henry repeatedly advanced in front of the platoon he
commanded, drawing machine-gun fire so that the German nests could be located
and wiped out by his men. Although wounded in the leg in this effort, his death
was the result of shrapnel wounds from an air bomb dropped by a German plane. He
was awarded the French Croix
de guerre avec palme for
his acts of heroism. From thePresident
of the United States, the Commander
in Chief of the United
States Armed Forces, he was presented with the Distinguished
Service Cross and an Oak
Leaf Cluster in lieu of a second
Distinguished Service Cross.
Clifford Henry was the great love of Margaret Mitchell's
life, according to her brother. In a letter to a
friend (A. Edee, March 26, 1920), Mitchell wrote of Clifford that she had a
"memory of a love that had in it no trace of physical passion".
Mitchell had vague aspirations of a career in psychiatry, but
her future was derailed by an event that killed over fifty million people
worldwide, the 1918
flu pandemic. On January 25, 1919, her mother, May Belle Mitchell, succumbed
to pneumonia from the "Spanish flu". Mitchell
arrived home from college a day after her mother had died. Knowing her death was
imminent, May Belle Mitchell wrote her daughter a brief letter and advised her:
An average student at Smith College, Mitchell did not excel
in any area of academics. She held a low estimation of her writing abilities.
Even though her English professor had praised her work, she felt the praise was
undue. After finishing her freshman year at Smith,
Mitchell returned to Atlanta to take over the household for her father and never
returned to college. In October 1919, while
regaining her strength after an appendectomy,
she confided to a friend that giving up college and her dreams of a
"journalistic career" to keep house and take her mother's place in society meant
"giving up all the worthwhile things that counted for—nothing!"
was hostess at an informal buffet supper last evening at her home on
Peachtree road, the occasion complimenting Miss Blanche Neel, of
Macon, who is visiting Miss Dorothy Bates.
adorned the laced covered table in the dining room. Miss Neel was
gowned in blue Georgette crepe. Miss Mitchell wore pink taffeta.
Miss Bates was gowned in blue velvet.
Invited to meet
the honor guest were Miss Bates, Miss Virginia Walker, Miss Ethel
Tye, Miss Caroline Tye, Miss Helen Turman, Miss Lethea Turman, Miss
Frances Ellis, Miss Janet Davis, Miss Lillian Raley, Miss Mary
Woolridge, Charles DuPree, William Cantrell, Lieutenant Jack
Swarthout, Lieutenant William Gooch, Stephen Mitchell, McDonald
Brittain, Harry Hallman, George Northen, Frank Hooper, Walter
Whiteman, Frank Stanton, Val Stanton, Charles Belleau, Henry Angel,
Berrien Upshaw and Edmond Cooper.
The Constitution, Atlanta, February 2, 1921.
Margaret began using the name "Peggy" at Washington
Seminary, and the abbreviated form "Peg" at Smith College when she found an
icon for herself in the mythological winged horse, "Pegasus",
that inspires poets. Peggy made her Atlanta society
debut in the 1920 winter season. In the "gin and
jazz style" of the times, she did her "flapping"
in the 1920s. At a 1921 Atlanta debutante charity
ball, she performed an Apache
dance. The dance included a kiss with her male partner that shocked Atlanta
"high society".The Apache and the Tango were
scandalous dances for their elements of eroticism, the latter popularized in a
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, that made its lead actor, Rudolph
Valentino, a sex
symbol for his ability to Tango.
Mitchell was, in her own words, an "unscrupulous flirt".
She found herself engaged to five men, but maintained that she neither lied to
or misled any of them. A local gossip columnist, who
wrote under the name Polly Peachtree, described Mitchell's love life in a 1922
In April 1922, Mitchell was seeing two men almost daily;
one was Berrien “Red” Upshaw, whom she is thought to have met in 1917 at a dance
hosted by the parents of one of her friends, and the other, Upshaw's roommate
and friend, John R. Marsh, a copy editor from Kentucky who
worked for the Associated
Press. Upshaw was an Atlanta boy, a few months
younger than Mitchell, whose family moved to Raleigh,
North Carolina in 1916. In
1919 he was appointed to the United
States Naval Academy, but resigned for academic deficiencies on January 5,
1920. He was readmitted in May, then 19 years old, and spent two months at sea
before resigning a second time on September 1, 1920. Unsuccessful
in his educational pursuits and with no job, in 1922 Upshaw earned money
bootlegging alcohol out of the Georgia mountains.
Although her family disapproved, Peggy and Red married on
September 2, 1922, and the best man at their wedding was John Marsh, who would
become her second husband. The couple resided at the Mitchell home with her
father. By December the marriage to Upshaw had dissolved and he left. Mitchell
suffered physical and emotional abuse, the result of Upshaw's alcoholism and
violent temper. Upshaw agreed to an uncontested divorce after John Marsh gave
him a loan and Mitchell agreed not to press assault charges against him. Upshaw
and Mitchell were divorced on October 16, 1924.
On July 4, 1925, 24-year-old Margaret Mitchell and
29-year-old John Marsh were married in the Unitarian-Universalist
Church.The Marshes made their home at the
Crescent Apartments in Atlanta, taking occupancy of Apt. 1, which they
affectionately named "The Dump" (now the Margaret
Mitchell House & Museum).
While still legally married to Upshaw and needing income
for herself, Mitchell got a job writing feature
articles for The
Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine.
She received almost no encouragement from her family or "society" to pursue a
career in journalism, and had no prior newspaper experience.[ Medora
Field Perkerson, who hired Mitchell said:
Her first story, Atlanta
Girl Sees Italian Revolution, by Margaret Mitchell
Upshaw, appeared on December 31, 1922. She wrote on
a wide range of topics, from fashions to Confederate
generals and King
Tut. In an article that appeared on July 1, 1923, Valentino
Declares He Isn't a Sheik, she interviewed celebrity
actor Rudolph Valentino, referring to him as "Sheik" from his film
role. Less thrilled by his looks than his "chief charm", his "low, husky
voice with a soft, sibilant accent", she described
his face as "swarthy":
Mitchell was quite thrilled when Valentino took her in his
arms and carried her inside from the rooftop of the Georgian
Many of her stories were vividly descriptive. In an article
titled, Bridesmaid of Eighty-Seven
Recalls Mittie Roosevelt's Wedding, she wrote of a
white-columned mansion in which lived the last surviving bridesmaid at Theodore
Roosevelt's mother's wedding:
In another article, Georgia's
Empress and Women Soldiers, she wrote short sketches
of four notable Georgia women. One was the first woman to serve in the United
States Senate, Rebecca
Latimer Felton, a suffragist who held white
supremacist views. The other
women were: Nancy
Hart, Lucy Mathilda Kenny (also known as Private Bill Thompson of the Confederate
States Army) and Mary
Musgrove. The article generated mail and controversy from her readers. Mitchell
received criticism for depicting "strong women who did not fit the accepted
standards of femininity."
Mitchell's journalism career, which began in 1922, came to
an end less than four years later; her last article appeared on May 9, 1926. Several
months after marrying John Marsh, Mitchell quit due to an ankle injury that
would not heal properly and chose to become a full-time wife. During
the time Mitchell worked for the Atlanta
Journal, she wrote 129 feature articles, 85 news stories, and several book
Mitchell began collecting erotica from book shops in New
York City while in her twenties. She and her friends
were flamboyant in 1925. The newlywed Marshes and their social group were
interested in "all forms of sexual expression". Mitchell
discussed her interest in "dirty" book shops and sexually explicit prose in
letters to a friend, Harvey Smith. Smith noted her favorite reads were Fanny
Perfumed Garden and Aphrodite.
Mitchell developed an appreciation for the works of
Southern writer James
Branch Cabell, and his 1919 classic, Jurgen,
A Comedy of Justice. She read books about
sexology, and took
particular interest in the case studies of Havelock
Ellis, a British physician who studied human sexuality. During
this period in which Mitchell was reading pornography and
sexology, she was also writing Gone
with the Wind.
Mitchell wrote a romance novella, Lost
Laysen, when she was fifteen years old (1916). She gave Lost
Laysen, which she had written in two notebooks, to a boyfriend, Henry Love
Angel. He died in 1945 and the novella remained undiscovered among some letters
she had written to him until 1994. The novella was
published in 1996, eighty years after it was written, and became a New
York Times Best Seller.
In Lost Laysen,
Mitchell explores the dynamics of three male characters and their relationship
to the only female character, "Courtenay Ross", a strong-willed American
missionary to the South Pacific island of "Laysen". The narrator of the tale is
"Billy Duncan", "a rough, hardened soldier of fortune", who
is frequently involved in fights that leave him near death. Courtenay quickly
observes Duncan's hard-muscled body as he works shirtless aboard a ship called
"Caliban". Courtenay's suitor is "Douglas Steele", an athletic man who
apparently believes Courtenay is helpless without him. He follows Courtenay to
Laysen to protect her from perceived foreign savages. The third male character
is the rich, powerful yet villainous "Juan Mardo". He leers at Courtenay and
makes rude comments of a sexual nature, in Japanese nonetheless. Mardo provokes
Duncan and Steele, and each feels he must defend Courtenay's honor. Ultimately
Courtenay defends her own honor rather than submit to shame.
In a gender reversal, the woman writer (Mitchell) narrates Lost
Laysen through a heroic male
character, Billy Duncan. Mitchell's
Juan Mardo, lurks in the shadows of the story and has no dialogue. The reader
learns of Mardo's evil intentions through Duncan:
Mardo's desires are similar to those of Rhett Butler in his ardent pursuit of
Scarlett O'Hara in Mitchell's epic novel, Gone
with the Wind. Rhett tells Scarlett:
The "other way" is rape. In Lost
Laysen the male seducer is replaced
with the male rapist.
In Mitchell's teenage years, she is known to have written a
400-page novel about girls in a boarding school, The
Big Four. The novel is thought to be lost; Mitchell
destroyed some of her manuscripts herself and others were destroyed after her
In the 1920s Mitchell completed a novelette,
'Ropa Carmagin, about a Southern white girl who loves a biracial man. Mitchell
submitted the manuscript to Macmillan
Publishers in 1935 along with her
manuscript for Gone with the Wind.
The novelette was rejected; Macmillan thought the story was too short for book
||I had every detail clear
in my mind before I sat down to the typewriter.
— Margaret Mitchell
In May 1926, after Mitchell had left her job at the Atlanta
Journal and was recovering at home
from her ankle injury, she wrote a society column for the Sunday
Magazine, "Elizabeth Bennet's Gossip", which she continued to write until
August. Meanwhile, her husband was growing weary of
lugging armloads of books home from the library to keep his wife's mind occupied
while she hobbled around the house; he emphatically suggested that she write her
own book instead:
To aid her in her literary endeavors, John Marsh brought
home a Remington Portable No. 3 typewriter (c.
1928). For the next three years Mitchell worked
exclusively on writing a Civil War-era novel whose heroine was named Pansy
O'Hara (prior to publication Pansy was changed to Scarlett). She used parts of
the manuscript to prop up a wobbly couch.
War II, Margaret Mitchell was a volunteer for the American
Red Cross and she raised money
for the war effort by selling war bonds. She was
active in Home Defense, sewed hospital gowns and put patches on trousers. Her
personal attention, however, was devoted to writing letters to men in
uniform—soldiers, sailors and marines, sending them humor, encouragement, and
The USS Atlanta (CL-51) was
an anti-aircraft ship of the United
States Navy sponsored by Margaret
Mitchell and used in the naval Battle
of Midway and the Eastern
Solomons. The ship was struck and sunk in night surface action on November
13, 1942 during the Naval
Battle of Guadalcanal.
Mitchell sponsored a second cruiser named after the city of Atlanta, USS Atlanta (CL-104).
On February 6, 1944, she christened Atlanta in
Camden, New Jersey. Atlanta was
operating off the coast of Honshū when
the Japanese surrendered on August 15, 1945. It was sunk during an explosive
test off San
Clemente Island on October 1,
Margaret Mitchell was struck by a speeding automobile as she crossed Peachtree
Street at 13th Street in Atlanta
with her husband, John Marsh, while on her way to see the movie A
Canterbury Tale on the evening of
August 11, 1949. She died at Grady Hospital five days later without fully
The driver, Hugh Gravitt, was an off-duty taxi driver who
was driving his personal vehicle when he struck Mitchell. After the accident,
Gravitt was arrested for drunken driving and released on a $5,450 bond until
Gravitt was originally charged with drunken driving,
speeding, and driving on the wrong side of the road. He was convicted of
involuntary manslaughter in November 1949 and sentenced to 18 months in jail. He
served almost 11 months. Gravitt died in 1994 at the age of 73.
Perhaps the most enduring legacy of Gone
with the Wind is that people
worldwide would incorrectly think it was the true story of theOld
South and how it was changed by
Civil War and Reconstruction.
The film version of the novel "amplified this effect". Scholars
of the period have written in recent years about the negative effects the novel
has had on race relations by its resurrection of Lost