Margaret Mitchell – Encyclopedia of New Georgia
Margaret Mitchell is the author of carried away by the wind, one of the most popular books of all time.
The novel was published in 1936 and sold over a million copies in its first six months, a phenomenal feat considering it was the era of the Great Depression. More than 30 million copies of this masterpiece, set during the Civil War (1861-1865), have been sold worldwide in thirty-eight countries. It has been translated into twenty-seven languages. Shortly after the book’s publication, the film rights were sold to David O. Selznick for $50,000, the highest amount ever paid for a manuscript up to that time. In 1937, Margaret Mitchell received the Pulitzer Prize.
Youth and education
Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell was born on November 8, 1900 in Atlanta. His great-great-great-grandfather Thomas Mitchell fought in the American Revolution (1775-1783) and his son William Mitchell took part in the War of 1812. His great-grandfather Isaac Green Mitchell was a Methodist minister traveler who settled in Marthasville, which was later named Atlanta. Mitchell was therefore a fourth-generation Atlantan. His grandfather Russell Mitchell fought in the Civil War and suffered two gunshot wounds to the head during the fighting at Antietam. Married twice, he had twelve children, the eldest of whom was Mitchell’s father, Eugene.
Mitchell’s mother’s family was Irish Catholic. His great-grandfather Phillip Fitzgerald came to America from Ireland and eventually settled on a plantation near Jonesboro in Fayette County. (This part of the county is now in Clayton County.) The Fitzgeralds had seven daughters. Annie Fitzgerald, Mitchell’s grandmother, married John Stephens, who had emigrated from Ireland and settled in Atlanta. Stephens amassed large real estate holdings and helped found a streetcar system in the city. The Stephens had twelve children; Mary Isobel (May Belle), Mitchell’s mother, was the seventh. May Belle married Eugene Muse Mitchell on November 8, 1892. Eugene was a well-known Atlanta lawyer, and May Belle was a strong supporter of women’s suffrage. They had a son, Stephens, followed four years later by a daughter, Margaret Munnerlyn.
Mitchell started making up stories before she could write, dictating them to her mother. Later, she created her own books with cardboard covers and filled them with adventure stories using her friends, relatives and herself as characters. As she got older, she switched to notebooks, which her mother stored in cheap enamel bread boxes. A few of the hundreds of tales she wrote have survived, including two Civil War tales. When the family moved to Peachtree Street, young Mitchell attended Tenth Street School and later Woodberry School, a private school. She branched out into writing, directing, and directing plays, forcing neighborhood children to participate.
From 1914 to 1918, Mitchell attended Washington Seminary, a prestigious graduate school in Atlanta, where she was a founding member and leader of the drama club. She was also the literary editor of Facts and fantasies, the high school yearbook, in which two of his stories were featured. She was president of the Washington Literary Society. In 1916, before his sixteenth birthday, Mitchell also wrote a short story titled Laysen lost, discovered and published posthumously in 1996, sixty years after the publication of carried away by the wind.
When America entered World War I (1917-18), seminary girls were in high demand at dances for young servicemen stationed at Camp Gordon and Fort McPherson. At one such dance in the summer of 1918, Mitchell met twenty-two-year-old Clifford Henry, a wealthy and socially prominent New Yorker who was a bayonet instructor at Camp Gordon. The two fell in love and became engaged shortly before his overseas expedition. He was killed in October 1918 while fighting in France.
In September 1918, Mitchell entered Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she began using the nickname “Peggy”. Her freshman year at college was disrupted when a flu outbreak forced classes to be cancelled. In January, her mother contracted the flu and died the day before her daughter was to return home. Mitchell completed her freshman year at Smith, then returned to Atlanta to take her place as housewife and enter the next rookie season. At the last charity ball of the season, Mitchell created a scandal by performing a sultry dance popular in nightclubs in Paris, France.
Soon Mitchell met Berrien Kinnard Upshaw, who came from a prominent family in Raleigh, North Carolina. They married in 1922, but the marriage was brief. After four months, Upshaw left Atlanta for the Midwest and never returned. The marriage was annulled two years later.
The same year she got married, Mitchell landed a job with the Atlanta Journal’s Sunday Magazine. She used “Peggy Mitchell” as her signature. His interviews, profiles and sketches of life in Georgia have been well received. During his four years with the Sunday magazine, Mitchell wrote 129 articles, worked as a proofreader, filled in for the advice columnist, edited books and occasionally did difficult reporting for the newspaper. Complications from a broken ankle caused her to end her career as a journalist.
carried away by the wind
Mitchell’s second marriage was to John Robert Marsh on July 4, 1925, and the couple moved into a small apartment affectionately known as “the Dump.” They regularly entertained the newspaper crowd and other friends. Marsh, a native of Maysville, Kentucky, worked for the Georgia Railway and Power Company (later Georgia Power Company) as manager of the publicity department.
In 1926, to relieve the boredom of being locked up with a broken ankle, Mitchell began to write carried away by the wind. Setting up her Remington typewriter on an old sewing table, she completed the majority of the book in three years. She wrote the last chapter first and the other chapters in no particular order. Filling the chapters in brown paper envelopes, she eventually racked up nearly seventy chapters. When visitors appeared, she covered her work with a towel, keeping her novel a secret. There has been much speculation as to whether the characters were based on real people, but Mitchell claimed they were his own creations.
In April 1935, Harold Latham, editor of the Macmillan publishing house in New York, toured the South in search of new manuscripts. Latham learned that Mitchell had been working on a manuscript and asked if he could see it, but she denied having one. When a friend remarked that Mitchell was not serious enough to write a novel, Mitchell collected many envelopes and took them to Latham at his hotel. He had to buy a suitcase to carry them. He read part of the manuscript on the train to New Orleans, Louisiana, and sent it directly to New York. In July, Macmillan had offered him a contract. She received an advance of $500 and 10% of the royalties.
As she revised the manuscript, Mitchell cut and rearranged chapters, confirmed details, wrote the first chapter, and changed the name of the main character (originally called Pansy). Mitchell was particularly interested in writing a historically accurate novel. She wrote to a reader in 1937 that she had passed “ten years. . . read thousands of books, documents, letters, diaries, [and] old newspapers” to ensure that his book was historically valid. She also conducted her own formal and informal interviews with people who had lived through the war, apparently riding Confederate veterans to confirm details about the time.
Mitchell also struggled to think of a title that suited him. Titles considered included Tomorrow Is Another Day, Another Day, Tote the Weary Load, Milestones, Ba! Ba! Blacksheep, Not in Our Stars and Bugles Sang True. Finally, she chooses a line from a favorite poem by Ernest Dowson: “I forgot a lot, Cynara! blown away, / Throwing roses, frenzied roses with the crowd. Published in 1936, carried away by the wind ran to 1,037 pages and sold for three dollars.
carried away by the wind was a phenomenal success and received rave reviews. Overnight, Mitchell rose to stardom and remained in the public spotlight thanks to the production and premiere of the film based on her novel in 1939. She was constantly in demand for speaking engagements and interviews. At first she complied, but later, pleading ill health, she generally refused such requests and stopped signing copies of her book. She said she wanted to just stay Mrs. John Marsh.
Faded away With the wind was Mitchell’s only published novel during his lifetime. At his request, the original manuscript (with the exception of a few pages withheld to validate his authorship) and all other writings were destroyed. These included a short story in the Gothic style, a ghost story set in an old plantation house left vacant after the Civil War. According to Lois Cole, a friend of Mitchell and Macmillan employee, three people had read this tale (written before blown away) and thought it was worth publishing by one of the bigger publishing houses. Cole suggested that Mitchell enter her into the Little, Brown novel contest.
Perhaps one of the reasons Mitchell never wrote another novel is that she spent so much time working with her brother and husband to protect the copyrights of her book overseas. . Until the publication of Carried away by the wind, international copyright laws were ambiguous and varied from country to country.
Correspondence also took up a lot of his time. In the years since publication, she personally responded to every letter she received about her book. With the outbreak of World War II (1941-45), she worked tirelessly for the American Red Cross, even outfitting a hospital ship. She also set up scholarships for black medical students.
On August 11, 1949, Mitchell and her husband decided to go to the cinema, A Canterbury Tale, at the Peachtree Art Theatre. Just as they began to cross Peachtree Street, near 13th Street, a speeding car came over the hill. Mitchell stepped back; Marsh stepped forward. The driver, an off-duty taxi driver, braked, skidded and rammed Mitchell. She was rushed to Grady Hospital but never regained consciousness. For five days before his death, crowds waited outside for news. US President Harry Truman, Georgia Governor Herman Talmadge and Atlanta Mayor William B. Hartsfield have all asked to be kept informed of his condition. Hotlines were set up at Grady’s hospital, and friends manned the lines in four-hour shifts. Mitchell died on August 16, 1949, and was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.
Mitchell was inducted into the Georgia Women of Achievement in 1994 and the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2000.