Although Margaret Mitchell wrote only one novel, she became a worldwide phenomenon reaching millions of readers globally with her unforgettable, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning Gone With the Wind. Spending ten long years to produce this masterpiece, Mitchell began writing in 1926 and published it in 1936. The story focuses on the central figure of a Southern woman named, Scarlett O’Hara. With numerous critical studies, analysis and articles, the novel has been published in 40 countries and was the bestselling novel in America’s literary history at the time of its publication, selling more copies than any other book had sold before it. Never having gone out of print, the book still maintains and enjoys its popularity long after Mitchell’s death.
Margaret Mitchell was born in Atlanta, Georgia on November 8, 1900 into a notably rich and politically prominent family. Her father was a lawyer and historian. Mitchell’s mother was a suffragist. Mitchell spent a happy and active childhood and developed the habit of reading from an early age. Upon graduating from Washington Seminary, which was an elitist private girl’s school, in 1918, Mitchell moved on to study medicine at Smith College where she adopted the name ‘Peggy’ for herself, after the mythological character Pegasus that inspires poets. Peggy began a career in journalism, writing for The Atlanta Journal. She drew inspiration for Gone with The Wind from her own life growing up in the South and also linked it to the controversial history of the South and the American Civil War, its after effects and reconstruction from the white Southern perspective.
On October 16, 1918, during World War I, Mitchell’s boyfriend, Clifford West Henry died leaving Margaret devastated. Four years later, on October 16, 1918, she married Berrien “Red” Kinnard Upshaw. The best man on their wedding was John Marsh, who would later become Mitchell’s second husband. The marriage with Upshaw did not turn out to be a happy one for Mitchell. He was a violent man who abused Mitchell both physically and mentally. He continued abusing and stalking her even after the marriage was annulled in 1924. Mitchell’s life returned to normalcy with her second marriage to John Marsh on June 15, 1925 at the age of 24.
Encountering a tragic death, Margaret Mitchell died on August 16, 1949 in Grady Memorial Hospital, Atlanta, where she was taken after being hit by speeding taxi run by a drunken driver. She was crossing the road with her husband going to watch Canterbury Tales. Mitchell lost her life in the hospital, five days after the accident. She was laid to rest in the Oakland cemetery in Atlanta.
Although not a very prolific writer, the legend of Margaret Mitchell continues with Gone With the Wind. In her teenage years, Mitchell wrote a story about some girls in a boarding school and entitled it, The Big Four. She also wrote another story, Little Sister in addition to a novel, Lost Laysen which she gave to her boyfriend, Henry Love Angel in two notebooks. The novel was discovered long after Mitchell’s death and published posthumously.