For this month’s Author Birthday, we’re going down south with Margaret Mitchell. The author best known for writing Gone With the Wind was born on November 8, 1900, in Atlanta, Georgia. A proper Georgia Peach, she enchantingly captured the south with her stories and created characters that have surpassed the test of time.
Let’s get to know Mitchell:
The Early Years
- Mitchell’s mother, Maybelle, was a suffragist, advocating for women’s right to vote. Her father, Eugene, was an attorney.
- An imaginative child, Margaret Mitchell began by writing stories of animals. She then progressed to fairy tales and adventure stories. She even made her own book covers.
- At the age of 11, she nicknamed her publishing enterprise “Urchin Publishing Company.”
- In school she was very active in the drama club, even playing male characters like Nick bottom in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
- She also joined the literary club and had two stories published in the yearbook.
- After graduating from Washington Seminary in June 1918, Margaret Mitchell fell in love. His name was Clifford West Henry, a young army lieutenant and Harvard graduate. Anne Edwards, an American author best known for her biographies of Princess Diana and Shirley Temple, claims Henry was a homosexual.
- Despite this, he proposed to Mitchell before shipping off to France.
- Henry was mortally wounded and died. His death was a result of shrapnel wounds from an air bomb drop by a German plane.
- According to Margaret’s brother Clifford, Henry was the love of her life. However, in a letter to a friend, Mitchell wrote that Henry was a memory of a love with no trace of physical passion. It is entirely possible that they had a great love for each other even though it wasn’t necessarily the romantic type.
- After Henry died, so did Mitchell’s mother due to a flu pandemic in 1918. Already being an average student that didn’t excel in any area of academics, she decided to drop out of college and take over the household to help her father.
- The years that followed were a bit tumultuous. Mitchell became a flapper known for scandalous dancing and flirting. At one point she was engaged to five men, and at another point, she was seeing two men almost daily.
- One of these men was Berrien Upshaw, whom was unsuccessful in his educational pursuits and couldn’t find a job. To make ends meet, he began bootlegging. He married Mitchell in 1922. Little did they both know that the best man at their wedding, John Marsh, would later become her second husband.
- Upshaw was an alcoholic with a violent temper. He physically and emotionally abused Mitchell, so just a few months into their marriage Upshaw left.
- John Marsh gave him a loan, and Mitchell vowed not to press charges leading to an amicable divorce in 1924.
- The following year, Margaret Mitchell and John Marsh married and made their home at the Crescent Apartments in Atlanta. It is now known as the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum.
- Needing money, Mitchell got a job writing feature articles for the Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine. She received no encouragement from her family or society on the matter.
- She wrote on a variety of topics and conducted interviews, one of which was with celebrity actor Rudolph Valentino.
- Less than four years later, her career ended with her last article appearing in 1926. She suffered an ankle injury that didn’t heal properly, so she chose to become a full-time wife. During her time at the Atlanta Journal, she wrote 129 feature articles, 85 news stories, and several book reviews.
- Margaret Mitchell was hit by a car as she was crossing the street with her husband. They were on their way to see a movie in 1949. She died at the hospital five days later without ever regaining consciousness.
- The driver was named Hugh Gravitt—an off -duty taxi driver.
- For his crime, he was arrested for drunken driving, released on a $5,450 bond until Mitchell’s death, and later served almost 11 months in jail. He died at the age of 73.
She didn’t have the easiest of lives, but Margaret Mitchell left a legacy behind. Not only was she a strong woman that surpassed many hardships throughout her life, she was also a great storyteller. Her career may have been short-lived, but her stories were many. It seems as though the majority of them were written during her childhood, but as she grew older some of her stories grew with her. If that’s not a great example of progress and maturity, then nothing is.