Margaret Mitchell, 1900-1949

  • Margaret-Mitchell-WWP

Woman Category: Literature & PoetryWoman Tags: Atlanta Women, Author, Journalist, and Pulitzer Prize

  • HerStory

    Pulitzer Prize-winner novelist and journalist, the author of the novel “Gone with the Wind.”

    Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Growing up, she heard stories about the Civil War from relatives and family friends who fought in the war as Confederate soldiers. When Mitchell was able to read on her own, she read everything she could get her hands on. Her favorites author was Thomas Dixon, who wrote about the white south as the victim of the Civil War.
    Mitchell loved to write stories from a young age. She began with stories about animals, then fairy tales and adventure, crafting the covers of the books she wrote and adding artwork. At 15, with the encouragement of her English teacher, she wrote her first novella named “Lost Laysen.” The novella was discovered only in 1994, and it became a Best Seller when it was published. After graduating high school, she enrolled in Smith College in Massachusetts, but four months later, her mother died of the Spanish flu, and after finishing freshman year, she returned to Atlanta, taking care of the household, her father, and brothers. She never returned to college.
    At the age of 20, she made her society debut. She loved to flirt and was known as a heart breaker, getting engaged five times before marrying Red Kinnard Upshaw. In the four-month they lived together, she suffered emotional and physical abuse as a result of his alcoholism and violent temper. A year after the wedding, they got a divorce. In the need to provide for her own, Mitchell began to write articles for The Atlanta Journal. Her articles dealt with a diverse range of topics, including fashion, celebs interviews, and Confederate generals. Her journalism career was short-lived and less than four years of writing, and two years after she married John Mars, who was the best man at her first wedding, she quit because of an ankle injury. During those four years, she published 129 articles, 85 stories, and numerous book reviews. While restricted to home because of her injury, her husband brought her armloads of books to keep her mind occupied. One day he came with a typewriter suggesting she write a book instead of reading, and for the next three years, Mitchell dedicated her time to write a novel set in the Civil War-era.
    At age 36, she was convinced to publish her novel – “Gone with the Wind.” It sold 50,000 copies a day and 1 million within six months, becoming the most selling novel in the US, translated to more than 40 languages, and selling 30 million copies worldwide. A month after its release, Mitchell sold the motion-picture rights for $50,000, at the time it was the highest amount ever paid to a debut novelist. Disliking the fame, she declined requisitions for promotional appearances, preferring to respond to the thousands of fan letters she received. She never wrote another book. On August 11, 1949, on her way to the movies, she was struck by a speeding automobile, and died five days later.

    “With enough courage, you can do without a reputation”

    “With enough courage, you can do without a reputation”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • When she was 3 years old, her dress caught fire, afterward, her mother dressed her in boy’s clothes, and for the next four years, Mitchell identified herself as a boy named Jimmy.
    • She used the name “Peggy” as a reference to the mythological winged horse “Pegasus” that inspires poets.
    • At age 11, she named her publishing operation “Urchin Publishing Co,” and at 13, she wrote two stories that accrued during the Civil War.
    • Her mother was the president of the Atlanta Woman’s Suffrage League and an active member of various women’s rights organizations, used to read her novels and take her to women’s suffrage rallies.
    • During WW2, she volunteered at the American Red Cross, raising money for the war effort, mending hospital gowns and trousers, and writing letters to soldiers, sailors, and marines.
    • She had to pursue legal actions against publishers who produced unauthorized editions of the novel. Her efforts to protect her copyrights abroad caused the inadequacy of copyright protections for American authors as well as legislative improvements by the congress.
    • She was pictured on an American postage stamp in the “Great Americans
      ” series.
    • The house where she wrote the novel Gone with Wind is now the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum.
  • More About Her Legacy
    Creations By and About Her:

    * Books she wrote


    * The National Book Award for Most Distinguished Novel (1936)
    * Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1937)
    * Inducted into Georgia Women of Achievement in (1994)
    * Inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in (2000)

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Scarlett O'Hara's best lines (Gone with the Wind)

    What is says in the title. Top notch writing and casting of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett, from the classic Gone with the Wind

  • Mitchell in 1941 after a long training as Red Cross launchee. Photo credit - LOC

  • Citations and Additional References:
    PBS Foundation website.
    IMDB website.
    Wikipedia page.