November 8th: Bram Stoker & Margaret Mitchell

Today’s Google Doodle honors Irish writer Bram Stoker, known for his classic work Dracula. In the U.S., this makes Stoker the 20th male recipient of the Doodle honor in 2012 (compared to 4 women). Tallying up all the Google sites around the world, Stoker is the 87th male honoree (compared to 14 women). Those numbers aren’t exactly inspiring!

So here at Speaking Up, we’ll do today what we do best: track down a woman whom Google could have chosen to honor instead. This time around, we’ll learn a bit more about Margaret Mitchell.

Margaret Mitchell, photographed in 1941 by Al Amuller.

Mitchell is most widely known as the author of Gone With the Wind, which earned her the Pulitzer Price for Fiction and the National Book Award. Considered one of the great American novels, Gone With the Wind is the only novel Mitchell published, though a novella she wrote as a young woman was published posthumously.

Mitchell was born on November 8, 1900, and lived until August 1949. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Mitchell lived her entire life in that area. Like many authors, she started writing and illustrating her own stories when she was a young child. Later, her mother insisted that Mitchell be given the chance at a high-quality college education, and Margaret attended Smith College for one year. However, after her mother died of the Spanish flu, Mitchell returned home and did not complete her college degree.

In her first, short-lived marriage, when Mitchell was 22 years old, she was a victim of physical and emotional abuse. During the period before she was able to legally divorce her husband, Mitchell began to write for The Atlanta Journal to support herself financially. She wrote on topics ranging from world history to celebrity gossip to vignettes of strong, independent women. Mitchell left t he world of journalism in 1926, around the same time that she began writing Gone With the Wind.

This novel was a major project: it wasn’t published until 1936, ten years after Mitchell began putting pen to page! Since then, the novel has been adapted into plays, musicals, ballets, and of course the Oscar-winning film. For its time, Gone With the Wind and its adaptations broke financial records and brought larger payments to Mitchell than any prior author. The financial success from the novel’s publication and popularity allowed Mitchell to focus on philanthropy. Sadly, Margaret Mitchell was struck by a car and killed when she was only 49 years old.

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