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Margaret Mitchell and the Atlanta Journal
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Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind was so wildly popular that her career as an author completely overshadows her earlier career – as a newspaper reporter for the Atlanta Journal. In 1950, the Journal called Peggy Mitchell its most famous reporter. The story of her work tells much about the woman who created Scarlett O’Hara.

Margaret Mitchell referred to the Atlanta Journal office as the Black Hole of Calcutta
In 1922, at the age of 22, Peggy Mitchell was a young woman on the rebound. After the death of her mother Mitchell had returned from prestigious Smith College in Massachusetts after just a year of college. She was determined to earn a living by writing and set a simple goal: become a journalist for the Atlanta Journal. Her first visit to city editor’s Harllee Branch’s office was not successful. Branch later wrote, “…I was impressed by her earnestness…but we felt the time was not right for the Journal to hire women reporters.”

So if working in the city room was unfeasible, perhaps the Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine, then more than 10 years old, might have room for her and they did hire women. This time she spoke to Angus Perkerson, the Scottish-born editor of the Sunday Magazine. She was hired for $25 a week and reported for work to Forsyth St. near the downtown railyards just before Christmas, 1922, replacing another female reporter. Since this was before the advent of diesel-electric trains, the location meant that the air was filled with the soot from bituminous coal which powered the locomotives. This probably had a good deal to do with the name Peggy Mitchell gave her first office, “The Black Hole of Calcutta.”

Angus Perkerson and Margaret Mitchell at the time she worked for him at the Sunday Magazine
The first story with her byline appeared on December 31, 1922 on a story entitled "Atlanta Girl sees Italian Revolution." She had trumped her editor, who had assigned her to find out about skirt lengths in the coming year and turned the piece into one on the overthrow of the Italian government by Benito Mussolini. Over the next four years Peggy Mitchell turned in 127 additional stories featuring her byline and countless others that didn’t, including some for city editor Branch.

Compare her first piece to her second ("Plant Wizard does miracle here") and it is amazing the advance made by this freshman reporter. Some titles are fairly bland, but "Hanging Over Atlanta In Borglum’s Sling" took Mitchell high above Atlanta in a stonecutter’s sling so she could get an idea what it was like on Stone Mountain. "Bridesmaid of 87 Recalls Mittie Roosevelt’s Wedding" took her to Tara-like Bulloch Hall. Her final piece appeared on May 9, 1926 and was titled "Pigeons to Race from Atlanta to Havana."

When young Margaret Mitchell was called to write a piece for Harllee Branch she was understandably nervous. She thought her work would not stand up to the demands of the city editor who once refused her a job. Then she saw Branch showing a copy of her work to the other city room reporters, telling them they should do work as good as this. Peggy Mitchell was vindicated. However, it was a comment by her own boss, Angus Perkerson, that meant the most to her. On a story about pugilist Tiger Flowers, Mitchell made the fighter “...live and breathe in print.” Perkerson went on to tell her the story was “…written like a man.”

One of the lasting memories of her lies in five profiles of Georgia-born generals in the Confederate Army that appeared in December, 1925. John Brown Gordon, T. R. R. Cobb, Ambrose Ransom Wright, Henry Lewis Benning and Pierce Butler Young were fittingly portrayed as heroes by the little lady who wrote like a man.

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