On August 16, 1949, 65 years ago, the world lost Margaret Mitchell at the young age of 49. The creator of Gone With the Wind had led a colorful life.
While that was the only book she ever published, it brought her great fortune and lasting fame. It remains one of the most popular books of all time, still selling thousands of copies each year and inspiring a major film as well as a series of collectibles.
But did you know Mitchell's life was interesting enough to give her heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, a run for her petticoats?
Here are 5 fascinating facts about the life of Margaret Mitchell:
1. The Flu Interrupted Her Education
Like Scarlett O'Hara, the heroine of Gone With the Wind, Mitchell was no stranger to hardship or heartbreak. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, she left her hometown in 1918 to go to Smith College in Massachusetts. Her college career was cut short thanks to the influenza epidemic that caused Smith to cancel classes.
More tragically, Mitchell's mother died of the same flu the day before Margaret returned home from school. Although she did end up finishing the year back at Smith, she ended up dropping out and returning home to take care of her dad and brother.
2. She Turned Heads at Her Debut
After leaving Smith, Mitchell decided to make her debut in Atlanta society. She caused a bit of a scandal during the last ball of her debut season, when she performed a dance popular at the time in the nightclubs of Paris.
3. Her First Marriage was Rocky
Mitchell married twice. Her first marriage was to Berrien Kinnard Upshaw, known as "Red," who was a bootlegger and former football player from a respected family in North Carolina. The marriage was rumored to be tumultuous and it was brief - Upshaw left Mitchell after just four months, never to return again. After two years, the marriage was annulled. Some people think that Upshaw was the inspiration for Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind, but Mitchell never admitted as much.
4. She Wrote Gone With the Wind in Secret
A broken ankle left Mitchell with a lot of time on her hands in 1926. To keep herself busy, she started working on what would become Gone With the Wind.
Rumor has it that she wrote the final chapter of the book first and the rest in no particular order. She kept the manuscript pages stuffed in manila envelopes and covered up the stack of envelopes with a towel whenever friends came over.
5. She Wrote At Least One Other Unpublished Book
While Gone With the Wind was the only book Mitchell ever published, it wasn't the only book she ever wrote. She had written a short Gothic novel before Gone With the Wind, but only a few close friends read it. That novella, along with much of the original manuscript of Gone With the Wind and many of Mitchell's other writings, was destroyed at her request.
The publication and popularity of Gone With the Wind dramatically changed Mitchell's life, thrusting her into the spotlight. Although she's been gone a long time, her legacy continues and fans of her book continue to read it and watch the film it inspired. Gone With the Wind fans can also bring the story home with beautiful collectible Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler dolls from Madame Alexander.
Hope you enjoyed reading our 5 fascinating facts about the life of Margaret Mitchell. So are you a Gone With The Wind fan? Know more interesting facts about Margaret Mitchell? Share in the comments below!
Sources: http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/1108.html, http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/arts-culture/margaret-mitchell-1900-1949, http://www.atlantahistorycenter.com/about/margaret-mitchell