Margaret Mitchell was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1900. Her father, Eugene, was a lawyer and president of the Atlanta Historical Society. Her mother, Maybelle, was a passionate advocate for voting and economic rights for women.
As a child, Mitchell loved to read. By the time she was 11 years old, she had read all of Shakespeare’s plays. She also loved to read the works of Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens.
When she was 22, Mitchell joined the Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine as the first female columnist, earning $25 per week. Under the pen name Peggy Mitchell, she wrote hundreds of articles, including features, book reviews, celebrity profiles and interviews, and profiles of Civil War generals.
In 1926, Mitchell broke her ankle in a car accident and was bedridden. Her husband, John Marsh, would go to the library every few days to check out a stack of books for Mitchell. After a certain period, she had read through most of the library’s books. The husband said that if she wanted to read another book, she would have to write it herself. “What would I write about?” she asked. Marsh replied, “Write about what you know.” Mitchell began writing her epic, Gone with the Wind. She wrote the last chapter first.
Mitchell considered several titles for her novel, including: “Tomorrow is Another Day,” “Bugles Sang True,” “Not in Our Stars,” “Ba! Ba! Black Sheep,” and “Tote the Weary Load.” The final title is taken from the poem “gone with the wind” written in 1894 by British poet and novelist Ernest Dowson.
Gone with the Wind contains 418,053 words. Mitchell typed each page and when each chapter was completed she placed them in a manila envelope. When the novel was completed, the manila envelopes when stacked on one another were taller the she was (she stood 4 feet, 9.5 inches).
After Macmillan Publishing decided to publish the novel, Mitchell spent six months revising the novel, including writing a first chapter and changing the name of the protagonist from Pansy O’Hara to Scarlett O’Hara.
Gone with the Wind was published in 1936. The book weighed 2.5 pounds and sold for $3 — 50 cents more than the average hardback book. In just four years, Mitchell earned $1 million.
Gone with the Wind, the only novel that Mitchell published in her lifetime, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1937. In a Harris poll conducted in 2008 and 2014, Gone with the Wind was rated number two in the list of American’s favorite books (the Bible was number one). As of 2010, over 30 million copies of Mitchell’s novel have been sold.
The novel has been adapted for screen (David Oliver Selznick’s Gone with the Wind, featuring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in 1939) and several stage productions.
Read related posts: Random Fascinating Facts About Authors
Who Were Barnes and Noble?
Sleeping Habits of Famous Authors
How Many Words Does the Average Person Speak in a Lifetime?
First Typewritten Book
For further reading: Who the Hell is Pansy O’Hara? by Jenny Bond and Chris Sheedy (2008).