Historic Places in South Jersey

Historic Places in South Jersey - Places to Go and Things to Do

A discussion of things to do and paces to go, with the purpose of sharing, and encouraging exploration of South Jersey.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Margaret Mitchell in Camden, NJ

On February 6, 1944, Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind, visited Camden, New Jersey, to christen the U.S.S. Atlanta.  
Lately, I've been reading Margaret Mitchell and John Marsh which is an excellent biography of the years when Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind, and a bautiful portrait of a wonderful marital partnership. 
Gone With the Wind sold more books than any another in the 20th Century.  It was a huge smash hit and in its own time, a literary success as well.  It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1937.  The movie made from her book " set a record for Oscar® wins and nominations. It took eight awards, with 13 nominations, winning for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (Hattie McDaniel), Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Interior Decoration and Best Editing."
Both the movie and the book have always been among my top 3 in favorites and I was surprised to find that my writing hero had visited my state, and indeed my county.  New Jersey is the Crossroads in more than the Revolution!
Speaking of the Revolution, I wish someone could have written a novel of the stature of Gone With the Wind, about our own state, we deserve it - where is our Margaret Mitchell?
For those of you who don't know much about her, Margaret Mitchell was not only a woman of her time and place but ahead of her time as well, in that she had a job in her youth as a reporter for the Atlanta Journal, in a day when women didn't work often and most especially Southern women.  She had many accidents and illnesses which plagued her throughout her short life.  In 1949 she was hit by a drunk diver as she and her husband crossed the street where they lived on their way to the movies.  She was only 48 at the time but had, at least, had the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of her labor.  It had taken her ten years to write and edit her book with the exceptional editing help of her husband who did it for a living.  She wrote and read to him and he edited.  It was a chance meeting with Mr. Latham of McMillan publishers that brought the novel and the reading world together.
As my regular visitors know, I am an avid history fan and a lifelong book lover, so both of these passions come together in this particular book which makes history live.  I have three Civil War ancestors, all, of course, on the Union side, and all survivors, though one was wounded (Hiram McQuiston) and one was imprisoned in Andersonville (Robert Jaggard).   One of the things I love about this novel is that we so rarely get the view from the ordinary people over whom the war swoops like a tornado.  That is what happened at the house where I am docent, James and Ann Whitall Hosue, Red Bank Battlefield, National Park.  They were Quaker farmers, pacifists, and yet the war, literally, dropped into their side yard.  I wish I were younger and had more energy, I'd write a Revolutionary War novel set there, but I'm tired and having written two independently published novels, don't feel as though I've got enough ink left in my veins. 
Well after a few more months at the gym and Weight Watchers, who knows, maybe I'll find the energy and take a shot at it - even if it is just another independently published and personal work like my others.
Happy Trails, I'm off to the Cranberry Trail and Pakim Pond with friends on this glorious spring day!
Jo Ann

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