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Culture

Explore The Fascinating World Of Atlanta’s “Gone With The Wind” Author Margaret Mitchell

By Jack Rattenbury

Explore The Fascinating World Of Atlanta’s “Gone With The Wind” Author Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia.

Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell was an American novelist and journalist. Her only book Gone With The Wind won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937. Two years later, she sold the movie rights for $50,000. Despite the success, the film is controversial for its sanitized portrayal of slavery.

Mitchell was born in Atlanta in 1900. Her family were wealthy and politically prominent. The father, Eugene Muse Mitchell, was an attorney, and her mother, Mary Isabel “May Belle” (or “Maybelle”) Stephens, was a suffragette.

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Gone With The Wind is said to be inspired by her upbringing, when she was surrounded by relatives who told endless tales of the Civil War. With the family fueling her passion for storytelling, she became a feature writer for the Atlanta Journal in 1923. She dropped the name Margaret for her career and changed it to “Peggy”.

“The usual masculine disillusionment in discovering that a woman has a brain.”

Never truly satisfied with life in the news room, she shifted her focus towards fiction. Many people believe her self-criticism was the reason why she only ever published one book. Although, her life was short lived.

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After Gone With The Wind was published, the rest is history. The book sold more copies worldwide than any other book except the Bible. And although extremely controversial, the movie went on to gross more than any other movie made before it.

In Atlanta, you can visit her Midtown home, which has become a museum dedicated to her and her renowned novel. You can explore the complex issues raised in Gone With The Wind. They even examine the popularity along with criticism and discussions of the book and film. Last summer, HBO Max removed the movie from its catalog, over what it described were “racist depictions”.

“I vaguely recall that I just sat down and began to write a book to occupy my time. And after I finished it and was able to walk again, I put the book away and forgot about it for years.”

Mitchell moved into the building in 1925 with her second husband, John Marsh. They lived in a small apartment on the first floor, nicknamed by Mitchell, “The Dump.” At the time, she shocked Atlanta society by keeping her own name, “Margaret Mitchell” for professional reasons.

The building is now closed due to the ongoing pandemic, but hopes to reopen as soon as possible. If you’re a fan, then it’s worth visiting regardless. You can picture Mitchell and Marsh walking the streets, and entering the apartment they called home.

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Margaret died on August 16, 1949 at the age of 48. Two days prior she was tragically struck by a speeding automobile as she crossed Peachtree Street at 13th Street and never regained consciousness. The taxi-driver, Hugh Gravitt, was arrested for drunken driving and manslaughter.

Mitchell now rests in Atlanta’s famous Oakland Cemetery. When her husband John died in 1952, he was buried next to his wife.

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Featured Images:

New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer: Aumuller, Al, photographer. WikiCommons

Atlanta History Center