Margaret Mitchell-Gone With the Wind Author

I subscribe to a number of email lists and one particular email caught my eye yesterday. It was from Daily Inspirations. Yesterday's quote was from Margaret Mitchell. I knew I recognized the name, but did not immediately know where from. I scrolled down to read the short biographical paragraph that always accompanies the quotes. The information given indicated that Margaret Mitchell was the author of "Gone With the Wind".

The thing that interested me the most in this short paragraph was the claim that "Gone With the Wind" was the only book she had ever written and that she had even had second thoughts about allowing a publisher to read it. I knew I had to know more about her.

I wanted to know more about her background and what inspired her to write. I also wanted to know why she had doubts about her book that caused her to hesitate showing it to the publisher.

Author Margaret Mitchell
Author Margaret Mitchell

Early Days of Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell was born on November 8, 1900 in Atlanta, Georgia. She was an imaginative young girl who was fascinated by the Civil War stories told to her by famiy members.

She attended private school but was not considered an exceptional student. Having trouble with her math classes, she came home to announce that she would not be returning to school. Her mother took her to an area of town where the plantations sat in ruin. She told Margaret that what had happened there could happen again and that it was a person's ability to think for themselves and their own hard work that would see them through times like that. Maragaret returned to school and actually went on to attend college.

The 1920s and the Apache Dance

Margaret Mitchell made her society debut in the early 20s. She was an opinionted woman who is said to have been intellectual, head-strong, and free-spirited. She scandalized Atlanta society by performing a provocative dance for the time, called an Apache Dance, with a male student from Georgia Tech. The Apache Dance is pronounced ah-POSH (not ah-PATCH-ee, like the Native America indians). It is a dance depicting violence between a woman and a man, presumably a sleazy prostitute and her pimp.

Margaret was snubbed and was not allowed back into the Junior League after this stunt.

Married Life

Margaret, who often went by the nickname "Peggy", was said to have had a lot of men lining up for her attention. She fell in love and became engaged to Clifford Henry. He was fighting in France for the military in World War I when he was killed in action before they could be wed.

Margaret Mitchell later was being heavily courted by two gentlemen at the same time. She reportedly married the one who asked her first, bootlegger "Red" Upshaw. They divorced after about two years with her citing his violent and cruel treatment as the cause for the divorce.

While married to Upshaw she took a job at The Atlanta Journal Sunday magazine making $25 a week to supplement her husband's irregular income. During her time there she wrote over a 120 feature stories about Atlantic life.

The editor, and her mentor, at the magazine was John Marsh. He was the other gentleman that had been courting her at the same time as Upshaw and was the best man at their wedding. She and Marsh married about a year after her divorce to Upshaw. A couple of months after they married she quit her job due to some injuries from a horse-riding incident and began convalescing at home in their cramped one bedroom apartment she affectionately referred to as "The Dump".

 

The Writing Begins

While at home, recovering from these ankle injuries, she played around with writing some fiction, but for some reason was quite secretive about it. She did confide in her husband John and he encouraged her to continue writing. It is reported that she wrote several pieces that she destroyed. One, after only thirty pages and the other, a novella called Ropa Carmagin.

John would bring her books from the library and after she appeared to have read everything he could bring her, he told her she'd just have to write her own book if she was going to have anything further to read. When she asked him what she should write about he told her to "write what you know".

She begin typing chapters on a Remington portable typewriter and storing them all around her apartment in manila envelopes. Tall stacks were hidden everywhere. She was careful to keep the pages hidden from friends. She never felt her work was worthy of attention. However, a friend, Lois Cole, who was working at MacMillan Publishing had noticed the scattered bits of the book and arranged for her boss, Harold Latham, to meet Margaret.

Discovering Gone With the Wind

Even after meeting Harold Latham with some friends, she still vehemently denied the existence of her book. Once alone in the presense of her friends, she confided that she felt the book was "lousy" and she was ashamed of it. Though the accounts of what happened next vary a bit, it was evidently a remark that was made by one of her friends that irritated her enough to go home and get the book and present it to Mr. Latham. She told him, "here, take this before I change my mind." Later, she telegraphed him saying that she had changed her mind and requested to have the book back.

But, it was too late. Mr Latham had already read enough to know what he had was "of tremendous importance." What Mr. Latham had was a book that was missing the first chapter, other chapters were incomplete, and the main character's name was Pansy O'Hara, which Mr. Latham didn't care for.

Margaret Mitchell agreed to change the name of the main character to Scarlett and after months of edits and revisions, Gone With the Wind was published in 1936, ten years after she first started writing it.

The Phenomenon known as "Gone With the Wind"

Gone With the Wind was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in mid-1937. It has sold more copies than any other book, other than the Bible. It continues to sell over 200,000 copies each year.

The movie rights were sold for $50,000, the largest amount ever at it's time. The movie starred Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. The movie premiered in Atlanta on December 15, 1939.

The publicity from the book and upcoming movie sent Margaret into a tailspin she wasn't prepared for. Many believe all the publicity is what kept her from writing any more novels.

A Tragic Ending

Margaret Mitchell was struck August 11, 1949 while crossing the intersection of Peachtree and 13th by an off-duty taxi driver. He claimed that she had stepped out into the roadway without looking. Her friends agreed that she often did that. She was taken to the Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta where she never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead five days later on August 16, 1949. She is buried in Oakland Cemetary in Atlanta.

More by this Author


Comments 24 comments

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 8 years ago from Central Texas Author

What I like about the Margaret Mitchell story is that I can relate to her. She was just like most writers. She was full of self-doubt and never thought what she had was good enough. She is a perfect example of how little we know about our own potential for greatness. Writers everywhere should be so inspired by her story. I know I am!


surefire profile image

surefire 8 years ago

Highly interesting! KCC Big Country, you are right we under-estimate ourselves most of the time. This is as bad as, or perhaps worse than, over-estimating one's abilities. Good hub.


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 8 years ago from Central Texas Author

Thank you Surefire! I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. I learned so much doing the research, not just about her, but about me. Well worth the exercise.


Gone With the Wind Scarlett 7 years ago

This is my favorite book of all time--to think it might never have been published! Also interesting to read is a collection of letters written while she was writing the book, published postmortem.


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

Let's see, I couldn't tell that by your "name"....LOL I just found it fascinating that she was just as insecure as the rest of us and she has the second best-seller in the world of all time.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

great hub, mm as a one trick pony?who cares if your pony is so great - actually, harper lee (to kill a monkingbird) only wrote one novel as well


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

So true, Dolores! It only takes one if you do it right! Don't we all wish?!

Thanks for stopping by!


my-success-guru profile image

my-success-guru 7 years ago from Upstate NY

Hello Again KCC Big Country,

You did it again- very interesting how Margaret Mitchell "never felt her work was worthy of attention" yet Gone With The Wind "sold more copies than any other book, other than the Bible. It continues to sell over 200,000 copies each year." Wow! beyond amazing! This story makes me reflect and ask who is the next incredible author or entreprnuer that just has to believe in themselves to awaken their dreams?

I'm giving this story another BIG thumbs up!

Take Care,

Jim

PS Soon you will be stepping over mountains!


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

I agree Jim! That's exactly what I was trying to say with this article. After hearing her story, I was so encouraged by knowing that even she had doubts, but luckily she followed through and look what a difference it made!

Thank you so much for your nice comments!


AEvans profile image

AEvans 7 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

Oh KCC, That is my favorite movie , when I was young I read the book first . I have an admiration for Margaret and she reminds me of what I am like, always writing , but I place mine in a notebook so the entire world can't see. I have been working on the same thing for years , adding and deleting information. I hope that one day someone will take a look and love my work too. :) I have always wanted to see my story on the silver-screen. I can picture it, but it hasn't gotten there yet.:)


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

Hold that picture in your mind, AEvans. That's what vision boards are about. Picture it so vividly in ever detail. It will happen. :)


AEvans profile image

AEvans 7 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

KCC: Thank you so much for the support , I will definitely hold the vision. :)


gracenotes profile image

gracenotes 7 years ago from North Texas

A story about inspiration is nice, especially when it highlights the author of one of my favorite books. I plan to write a Hub essay eventually about Gone With the Wind.


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

That's awesome, gracenotes! I look forward to reading it. Once you do, I can provide a link to it on this hub as well. :) Thanks for stopping by!


gracenotes profile image

gracenotes 7 years ago from North Texas

Thanks. Will do.


Sandi 3m 7 years ago

I am so thankful she did let this book be published. This is not only one of my foavorite books, but the movie is still on top of my favorites list as well. What an interesting hub!


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

My husband was telling me just yesterday about someone else that had thrown away a transcript and someone else encouraged them to pull it out of the trash and it went on to be a best seller. I think we doubt ourselves way too much. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Sandi.


habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia

Being a GA girl and big Clark Gable fan, I knew some of this, but I learned more from your hub. Thanks!


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

I'm glad you enjoyed it Habee. Thanks for stopping by!


2patricias profile image

2patricias 7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Interesting hub, thanks! I had read that MM. only wrote one book, and that was after a challenge form her husband.

Did not know about the self doubt - encouraging to anyone who aspires to produce anything original to know that someone who achieved success had self doubt.

I guess the main reason this is encouraging it that we all dream/wish we could be given a pile of paper and come up with a best seller.


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

Not just ANY best seller...but topped only by the Bible. That's quite an accomplishment for someone with self-doubt. That's why I consider it an incredible piece of encouragement. Thanks for stopping by 2patricias.


The Rope profile image

The Rope 6 years ago from SE US

Great job KCC! She had her list of tribulations as well as most of us. Thanks for sharing.


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 6 years ago from Central Texas Author

Thanks The Rope! That was really why I wrote this hub, to point out that even Margaret Mitchell doubted herself and had troubles publishing her book. She really inspires me to keep going.


camlo profile image

camlo 5 years ago from Cologne, Germany

Hi KCC!

I seem to have quite a lot in common with Margaret - the math problem, the jay walking ... Maybe I'll write a best seller too. :)

I'm very pleased the main character's name was changed to Scarlett - Pansy just doesn't hold the same appeal.

I think most true artists are insecure regarding their own work. Artists recognise good work, but never feel that their own makes the grade. Perhaps it's because it's different to what they'd call good, which is what actually makes it original - and good.

A very interesting read, KCC!

All the best, Camlo

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