Great American Authors – Margaret Mitchell

by jeanineoloughlin

July is the month we celebrate the United States’ Independence Day. So this month I will be posting about some of America’s greatest authors.

Margaret_Mitchell_NYWTS

Margaret Mitchell 11/8/1900 – 8/16/1949

Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell was born and raised in Atlanta Georgia to a wealthy and prominent family. Her father was an attorney and her mother a suffragist. She had two elder brothers, on of whom died in infancy. Margaret only published one book during her lifetime, Gone with the Wind, which won several awards including the Pulitzer Prize in 1937. Much of the book was inspired by the history of Margaret’s own family, her mother’s family descending from Irish immigrants who eventually held a plantation and slaves near Jonesboro, Georgia, and her paternal grandfather’s time in the Confederate States Army, and became quite wealthy after the war selling lumber during the rapid rebuilding of Atlanta.

Margaret was an active student in literature and theatre during her time at Washington Seminary, a private school for girls and later attended at Smith College, but dropped out after her freshman year following the loss of her mother to a flu pandemic in 1918. Margaret had many admirers and was frequently engaged to several suitors. She eventually married in September 1922 to Barrien “Red” Upshaw, who many saw as the inspiration for Rhett Butler in her novel. However the marriage only lasted 3 months after Mitchell was subject to both emotional and physical abuse attributed to Upshaw’s alcoholism. They were officially divorced in October of 1924. During Upshaw and Mitchell’s courtship Mitchell was also interested in his roommate and friend John R. Marsh whom Margaret married in July 1925 and moved into what is now the Margaret Mitchell House & Museum.

During her separation from Upshaw Margaret got a job writing feature articles for The Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine. She wrote on a wide range of topics and her articles were said to have been vividly descriptive. Less than four years later Mitchell quit her job with the magazine due to an ankle injury that would not heal properly and chose to become a full-time wife.

Mitchell wrote her famous novel Gone with the Wind while married to Marsh and the novel was published in 1936. Set in Clayton County, Georgia the book spans from just before the civil war through the reconstruction era of the South. The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937 and adapted into the wildly famous American film in 1939. The book has become controversial in more modern times for mis-portraying the treatment and minds of slaves during the time-period and perpetuating stereotypes throughout history. There is also more recent criticism regarding its portrayal of marital rape that occurs within the book.

Mrs. Margaret Mitchell Marsh died in August 1949 after being struck by a speeding automobile as she crossed Peachtree Street. The driver was later arrested for drunken driving and was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in November 1949 and sentenced to 18 months in jail.

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