Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell was an American novelist, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 for her novel, Gone with the Wind, published in 1936. It was only one novel published during her lifetime, but it brought her worldwide fame.
Mitchell was born in Atlanta, Georgia, into an Irish-Catholic family. She wrote hundreds of books as a child, but her literary endeavors weren’t limited to novels and stories. At the private Woodberry School, Mitchell took her creativity in new directions, directing and acting in plays she wrote.
In 1918 Mitchell enrolled at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, but completed only her freshman year. Tragedy struck — Mitchell's mother died of influenza. Margaret returned to Atlanta to keep house for her father and brother. In 1922, Mitchell took a job with the Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine, where she ended up writing about 130 articles. However, her journalistic career was cut short in 1926 by complications from a broken ankle.
In 1926 she began writing Gone With the Wind and finished most of the book by 1929. Margaret Mitchell named the novel Gone With the Wind, a phrase from “Cynara!, a favorite Ernest Dowson poem.
A novel about the Civil War and Reconstruction, Gone With the Wind is told from a Southern point of view, informed by Mitchell’s family and steeped in the history of the South and the tragedy of the war. She was greatly influenced by her grandmother, Annie Stephens, who was an eyewitness to the Civil War.
Gone With the Wind was published by Macmillan Publishers in 1936 with huge success and took home the Pulitzer the next year. Mitchell became an overnight celebrity, and the landmark film based on her novel came out three years later and went on to become a classic, winning eight Oscars and two special Oscars.
The novel is one of the most popular books of all time, selling more than 28 million copies. Margaret Mitchell named Gone With the Wind, a phrase from Cynara!, a favorite Ernest Dowson poem.
During World War II, Mitchell had no time to write because she worked for the American Red Cross. On August 11, 1949, she was hit by a car while crossing the street and died five days later.
Long after her death, a collection of Mitchell's girlhood writings and a romance novella she wrote as a teenager, titled Lost Laysen (1916), were published in 1996. The book became a New York Times Best Seller. A collection of newspaper articles written by Mitchell for The Atlanta Journal was republished in book form.
Mitchell's nephew, Joseph Mitchell left fifty percent of the trademark and literary rights of the Margaret Mitchell Estate to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta before he died in 2011.