Born: November 8, 1900 in Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Died: August 16, 1949 (aged 48) Grady Memorial Hospital, Atlanta, Georgia
Childhood & Early Life
Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell was born in Atlanta, Georgia on 08th November 1900. Her family was wealthy and politically prominent. 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. Margaret Mitchell spent her early childhood on Jackson Hill, east of downtown Atlanta. Her family lived near her maternal grandmother, Annie Stephens. 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.
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.
When little Margaret was about three years old, her dress caught fire on an iron grate, In It was traumatic for her mother although she was unharmed. 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 strip, Little 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.
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. Although her family disapproved, the couple was married in 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.
24-year-old Margaret Mitchell and 29-year-old John Marsh were married on July 4, 1925.
The same year she was married to Upshaw, Mitchell landed a job with the Atlanta Journal Sunday magazine, where she ended up writing nearly 130 articles. 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: For God’s sake, Peggy, can’t you write a book instead of reading thousands of them?
To aid her in her literary endeavors, John Marsh brought home a Remington Portable No. 3 typewriter. In 1926, For the next three years Mitchell started to work 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. 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 Wind was 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 in 1939 and went on to become a classic (winning eight Oscars and two special Oscars).
Later Years and Death
During World War II (1939-45), Mitchell had no time to write, as she worked as volunteer for the American Red Cross and 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 her sympathy.
On an evening of August 11, 1949, she was with her husband, John Marsh, on her way to see the movie A Cantebury Tale. While crossing the Peachtree Street in Atlanta, She was struck by a speeding Automobile. She died at age 48 at Grady Hospital five days later without fully regaining consciousness.
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 Mitchell’s death.