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Mitchell, Margaret

Author and newspaper journalist Margaret Mitchell was born in Atlanta Georgia on November 8, 1900; where she lived her entire life except for a brief two-year stay at Smith College from 1918-19. After a failed marriage in 1922, she married John Marsh in 1925. Mitchell took a job with the Atlanta Journal as a feature writer for their Sunday Magazine. Admired by her co-workers and fellow journalists (including Erskine Caldwell), she suffered a streak of unlucky accidents that frequently kept her out of work. It was during one these respites, sitting at home nursing a broken ankle, that Mitchell began writing a historical novel set in Atlanta before, during, and after the Civil War. After finishing the novel, which she entitled Tomorrow is Another Day, she set the manuscript aside without even trying to sell it. Then in 1935 an editor for the Macmillan Company “dug up” - in Mitchell’s own words - the manuscript and was convinced it would be a bestseller. Mitchell spent several months rewriting and revising her volume, with publication was set for April 5, 1936. As word of this work spread, it soon became obvious that the original printing of 10,000 would not be sufficient, so the publication date was moved back, first to May 5, then to June 30. The Book-of-the-Month Club selected it as their July selection even before it was published. Finally, on June 30, 1936, Margaret Mitchell’s epic historical novel was published, renamed Gone With the Wind. By December of that same year, total sales had already exceeded one million. In May of 1937 Mitchell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Since then worldwide sales of Gone With the Wind have exceeded thirty million; it has been printed in twenty-seven languages in thirty-seven countries, with some 180 different editions. David O. Selznick purchased the film rights to the book within a month of its publication. Mitchell, by her own choice, had no involvement in the filming of the movie, the popularity of which has equaled that of the book. The film premiered in Atlanta on December 15, 1939. While Mitchell was present for the premier, she was uncomfortable with all the media attention. But the success of her work meant she could no longer live as an average Atlanta housewife. She spent her time answering mail and trying to avoid curiosity seekers. She helped nurse her father and husband through years of invalidism, a task that prevented her from doing more writing. On August 11, 1949, she was struck by a taxi while crossing a street three blocks from her home. She died from the injuries on August 16 and was buried in Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery.

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Source: Library of Congress