MARGARET MUNNERLYN MITCHELL was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 8, 1900. She and an older brother, Stephens, born in 1896, were children of Eugene Muse Mitchell, a prominent attorney, and Mary Isabelle ("Maybelle") Stephens.On both sides of the family were soldiers in the American Revolutionary War, the Irish rebellions, and the Civil War. Relatives' accounts of war and battlefield tales told by Confederate veterans fascinated Margaret and shaped her talent for gripping narrative; she became a prolific writer at an early age. Between 1912 and 1917, she wrote and performed numerous plays and skits for her family.
Mitchell attended the Washington Seminary in Atlanta, a prestigious girls' finishing school. Although she loved mythology, she was an indifferent student; neither was she a social success. She did, however, upstage her more socially adept classmates in the school's theatrical productions, and she was named editor of the school's magazine her senior year. Mitchell entered Smith College in the fall of 1918, shortly after the United States entered World War I. Two personal events would then alter her life: her fiancé, Clifford Henry, was killed in action in France, and her mother died of influenza in January of 1919. In June, Mitchell returned to Atlanta to run the household for her father and brother.
She made her society debut in 1920, revealing a strong personality: she scandalized Atlanta society by performing a provocative "Apache dance" with a male Georgia Tech student at the season's final charity ball. Greater infamy followed when she took her place in the Atlanta Junior League, insisting upon performing her volunteer service among the black and charity wards in a local hospital. The League rejected her in 1922.
During the same years, however, Mitchell suffered further personal misfortunes. She seemed prone to accidents, illness, and physical disabilities: appendicitis, influenza, a foot broken first while swimming and again in a fall from a horse, and ribs twice broken marked the years from 1919 to 1921. Plagued by insomnia and the increasing weight of what she called her "black depression," Mitchell kept a diary, composed long letters to friends, and wrote short stories and other fiction, almost all of which she destoyed.