Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween to our readers! We recognize that many of our non-American readers might not celebrate the holiday, but whether you celebrate it or not, we hope you all enjoy our look at some GWTW-era Halloween traditions, along with a special slideshow of fancy dress fashion plates.   

Let's get things started. Back in the day, Halloween was celebrated more in the British Isles than on the U.S. side of the Atlantic. The handy Godey's Lady's Book explains more in this October 1872 essay about Halloween customs on both sides of the pond:
About the day itself there is nothing in any wise peculiar or worthy of notice, but since time almost immemorial All Hallow Eve, or Halloween, has formed the subject theme of fireside chat and published story. There is, perhaps, no night in the year which the popular imagination of the Old World has stamped with a more peculiar character than the evening of the 31st of October…

There is a remarkable uniformity in the fireside customs of this night throughout England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Nuts and apples are everywhere in requisition, and are consumed in immense numbers. From this fact the name of “Nutcrack Night” has often been applied, especially by the people of the north of England… But the grand sport of Halloween is the “ducking.” A number of apples are placed in a tub of water, and the juveniles— the use of their hands restricted— take turns in diving therefor, catching them with their teeth.
In this country Halloween was for a time strictly observed, but of late years it has been forgotten by almost all, except the juveniles. Amongst the old-style English, Irish, Scotch, and Welsh residents, the games mentioned above are practiced to some extent, and the occasion is also made noticeable for the baking of the old-fashioned potato pudding. Amongst the American people but little other sport is indulged in than the drinking, by the country folk, of hard cider, and the masticating of indigestible “crullers,” or “doughnuts.” The gamins make use of the festival to batter down panels, dislocate bell-wires, unhinge gates, destroy cabbage-patches, and raise a row generally. 
--Godey's Lady's Book, October 1872
Of course, these days, most people associate Halloween with dressing up in costumes and while that wasn't the practice in Scarlett's era, we couldn't let the day go by without mention of Victorian fancy dress...or fashion plates. You see, although it wasn't a Halloween tradition,  fancy dress parties in general were part of high-society social calendars. Costumes of literary or historical figures were popular choices, as were peasant costumes or "native" dress from foreign lands. Other common sartorial choices included representations of nature or the four seasons. 

So in honor of Halloween and Victorian costume parties, we've got a colorful selection of GWTW-era fancy dress styles below for you to enjoy. Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Doppelganger Dresses, Part 9: Melanie's Dress for Scarlett's Wedding to Charles

Today Doppelganger Dresses features what I think to be Melanie's prettiest costume in GWTW, the blue and white gown she wears to Scarlett and Charles' wedding.

One of the unique features about Melanie's dress is the crisscross pattern of wide ribbons that decorate the hem of the skirt. It turns out that variations of this style were actually common in the early 1860s. With this in mind, we've found two dresses that bear resemblance to Melanie's own. Interestingly, both dresses incorporate pink instead of blue like the movie version. 

Check them out after the jump and let us know what you think.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dolls, Drug Smuggling, and Civil War Blockade Runners

There's a blog post title I never thought I'd type. But check out the link below for a fascinating look at a clever way in which the Confederacy smuggled in contraband drugs for medicine. Doesn't this sound like a sly trick that Rhett would think up?

Poster of the Week

This week's poster imagery also served as the cover art for the original 1939 movie premiere program. Don't Rhett and Scarlett look so elegant (and not at all angry at each other) in their surprise party finery? 

Image from

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Quotable Rhett Butler: Call Him Ishmael

This series is really forcing me to brush up on my Bible lately. Rhett Butler will make a believer out of me yet. This week, another quote that traces back to the Old Testament: 
"After the surrender Ashley had much more than I had when I was thrown out. At least, he had friends who took him in, whereas I was Ishmael."
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter XLIII
I will admit to scratching my head at this one, before paying a visit to my friend Google, of course. The only Ishmael I could think of top of my head was a roamer, but then he was also into hunting whales and stuff. I somehow didn't think that's what Rhett had in mind. But then Google revealed that Rhett actually meant to say "I was a wild donkey of a man," and it all started to make sense...

Ishmael was the eldest son of Abraham (Abram at that time, but let's keep it simple). Abraham's wife, Sarah, could not conceive so she sent him to sleep with her maid Hagar instead.  In the good tradition of the Old Testament where everything has to be terribly violent and terribly unfair, she then becomes abusive towards Hagar when the latter falls pregnant. Hagar tries to do the reasonable thing and run away, but God orders her to return to her mistress. He also takes this occasion to impart some happy news to her. Her son? will be awful: 
"He will be a wild donkey of a man; 
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone's hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward all his brothers."
                                   Genesis 16
Apparently, the "wild donkey" metaphor refers to the child growing up to be a wanderer, not an ass. (Not that they wouldn't both work for our hero, of course.) Fast forward a few years and Sarah gives birth to a boy that they name Isaac. She then conveniently notices that Hagar's son, Ishmael, is "mocking," whatever that means, and asks Abraham to send both mother and child away. God agrees, so Abraham sends them off into the desert with a little food and water. You know, just enough for them to die halfway. Which they don't, because God saves them and helps Ishmael fulfill his destiny of having a really, really big family. But that, my friends, is another story. 

So there you have it. That's what means to be cast out like Ishmael. And for being "mocking" nonetheless, Rhett couldn't have chosen a better analogy. It should be noted, however, how grim and violent his references to the Bible become when he talks about his father. Here he casts his father as Abraham, who might be an important biblical figure and all, but is also a little on the narrow-minded, abusive side of the spectrum (where "a little" is an euphemism) and definitely not the best father one could hope for in this life.

And this raises a question, that, if you choose to engage it, can be our topic of discussion for this week. Given the grim terms he uses to describe the event and the obvious bitterness towards his father, do you think Rhett resented being thrown out or welcomed it as well-deserved freedom?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Doppelganger Dresses, Part 8: Carreen's Twelve Oaks Dress

The youngest O'Hara girl is the subject of this week's Doppelganger Dresses. On the other side of the jump, you'll find a period fashion plate that features an outfit quite similar to the blue dress with geometric trim and yellow cap that Carreen donned for the Twelve Oaks barbeque. Take a look and, as always, let us know what you think in the comments. 

Additionally, be sure to check out sidebar where you'll find our new page, Walter Plunkett and the Costumes of GWTW. Here you'll everything related to our coverage of Gone with the Wind costumes, including a link to our bio of Walter Plunkett, our updated slideshow of Plunkett's sketches (thanks to reader D. for sharing her lovely sketches with us!), and a master list of links for Doppelganger Dresses series for easy reference.    

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rue de la Paix

Bonnie Butler makes her Rue de la Paix debut this week. No doubt the little Miss Butler would be the envy of the Atlanta pre-school set with all her goodies. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Of Scarlett and Other Heroines : An Interview with Author Erin Blakemore

Editor's Note: Here's the promised interview with author Erin Blakemore, whose first book, The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder just came out earlier this week. It was a great pleasure for us to get to chat with Erin about Scarlett, Margaret Mitchell and Gone with the Wind in general and we think you'll find her insights  very interesting as well. Enjoy!

1. Erin, tell us a little about your book. What was your inspiration for starting this project and how did you go about selecting your material, deciding which heroines would feature in the book and which ones would have to be left out?

I've always wanted to write a book about books, but this book in particular started with a conversation with my agent about (of all things) how the Ingalls family might react to the publishing crisis of late 2008. I put together a proposal and outline and once the project sold to Harper, I finalized the character list with my editor after a long process of painful elimination.

2. Your book explores twelve very different female figures from classic literature. Of this group, who is your favorite heroine and why?

Wow...this question is almost impossible to answer. I must say I have an increased sense of appreciation for Jo March after learning more about Louisa May Alcott's struggles as a daughter, writer, and woman.

3. What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I like to think there's plenty in the book for both the hardcore book addict and the dabbling reader. Overall, I want to impart my passion for these books, characters, and authors, and encourage people to read and reread when times get tough.

4. Gone with the Wind is a story about a crisis, published in a time of economic crisis. You briefly mention the current economic situation in your preface. Is Scarlett O’Hara’s example as inspiring today as it was for readers in the ‘30s?

Honestly, I think Gone With the Wind and Scarlett's story are examples of how bad things can truly get. If you're not down to shoving your wallet in your nephew's diaper as Yankees charge up the steps of your ancestral home, you may not have hit rock bottom quite yet. Like Scarlett, most of us will make do with what we're dealt, even when it seems we can't go on. I'd say that's great solace for uncertain economic times.

5. In the book, you mention that you first read Gone with the Wind in sixth grade. What were you initial impressions of the novel and how has your relationship with Gone with Wind changed as you’ve become an adult?

Surprisingly, upon many, many rereadings the book has not grown any less compelling (though my own impressions of romance and love have changed a lot since my first reading). Now I see the relationships in the book quite differently. As a child who had a contentious relationship with many of the women and girls in my life, it was easy to dismiss the book's treatment of the relationship between Melanie and Scarlett. As I've grown up, I've come to recognize the true mastery and sensitivity of those passages. What a monumental study of female relationships and the true meaning of love-hate.

6. One of the aims of your book is to show how an author’s life and personality are reflected in the their writing. When it comes to Margaret Mitchell, you say Gone with the Wind was an episode in her “lifelong struggle to make sense of a tradition-bound world that expected her to content herself with her family name and her deft grasp of Southern customs.” Do you see Gone with the Wind as her way of criticizing that society or rather justifying it and making peace with it?

Great question. Mitchell herself acknowledged that she was born and bred to tell a Southern story, but I think she did so on her own terms. I see Gone with the Wind as her attempt to reconcile her rebellion with her birthright, just like Scarlett must reconcile her heritage as a planter's daughter with her fundamental discomfort around "good Southern women." The result is so much juicier and more complex than a one-sided treatment could ever be.

7. A puzzling aspect given how close Margaret Mitchell was to Scarlett in some aspects is that she considered Melanie to be the novel’s true heroine. Scarlett definitely overshadows her in Gone with the Wind, but is Melanie on a par with some of the other heroines you discuss in your book?

Though I can't help but think that Mitchell's Melanie remarks were her way of deflecting conversation about how what Scarlett did or didn't reflect on her own character, I have grown to appreciate Melanie much more with the years. Remember when Frank Kennedy muses that a "he had caught a tropic bird, all flame and jewel color, when a wren would have served him just as well. In fact, much better."? Melanie is the wren, the unassuming one, the steadfast woman and a definite heroine in her own right. But her flaws are never deep (or exposed) enough to string me along like Scarlett's. One knows that Melanie will always opt for good over bad, but one waits for Scarlett to choose.

8. You describe Scarlett as “literature's most lovable bitch." What do you think makes her an admirable character despite her shortcomings?

Scarlett is a fighter, a wounded warrior, and that ability to charge into battle on behalf of herself and her loved ones despite the most devastating circumstances is something to love and admire. Like every Gone with the Wind fan I long to know what Scarlett the older woman would do...would she grow into that impulse to fight or keep wounding herself with it? Would she change, or go on in perpetual denial? I guess we'll never know.

9. Would you say Scarlett O’Hara is a feminist icon?

Though she kicks ass and takes names, Scarlett is far too obsessed with the opinions of men to qualify as a feminist icon for me. But the part of the book in which she realizes she could run Frank Kennedy's store better than Frank Kennedy himself is among my favorite feminist passages in literature.

10. The heroines in your book all have different personalities and stand for different values. Which of these women do you think Scarlett O’Hara would have gotten along with, if any?

Not many, given that it would mean sharing the spotlight! I could see a grudging truce with women like Lizzie Bennet, Celie, and Jo March. Jane Eyre would cancel her out entirely, while I can see Claudine fitting in nicely in a New Orleans scene complete with enormous crawfish and two dashing husbands.

11. At one point during the proposal scene, Rhett Butler asks Scarlett “Did you ever in your novel reading come across the old situation of the disinterested wife falling in love with her own husband?” Of course, Scarlett never willingly opened a book, but if she did, do you think she could have learned something from other literary heroines? If you could choose one heroine (from any time frame) whose story could have changed Scarlett O’Hara’s life, who would it be?

Ah, but if she'd read books, would she really have learned from them? I would gladly introduce Scarlett to Katie Nolan of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, whose own gritty temperament and can-do attitude would have earned Scarlett's grudging respect and taught her a thing or two about holding your own.

12. One of the features of your book is a little section called “Literary Sisters” where you highlight other literary characters that are close to the heroine in the respective chapter. One of Scarlett’s literary sisters is Lily Bart from Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, another 19th century belle that fights to maintain her social and economic status. It’s a very interesting topic of compare and contrast. What would you say are some characteristics Scarlett has and Lily doesn’t?

I'd say that Scarlett is willing to let everything go, while Lily clings to the trappings of the society she's always known. While Scarlett soon learns to rely on physical labor and grit, Lily grasps the chains that bind her to her own time (the corset strings, shall we say?) more strongly. Also, amusingly, Lily is a discreet woman despite her indiscretions, while Scarlett's inability to hold her tongue or keep her peace long gives Gone with the Wind a constant feeling of motion and peril.

13. Continuing from the previous question, you also list Maud Bailey and Christabel LaMotte from the novel Possession as Scarlett O’Hara’s literary sisters. This is a subtler choice, given the difference in time frame and intellectual background between Byatt’s heroines and Scarlett. What were the main similarities that made you choose them?

Like Scarlett, Maud and Christabel both represent vitality, sexuality, and promise. The chase for Possession, with all the word's layers and meanings, seems to parallel the many futile chases in Gone with the Wind...Scarlett's unfulfilled passion for Ashley, Rhett's desire and abhorrence of Scarlett, a society's chase for relevance and survival after the worst has happened. Finally, both books (and all three characters) are far more dense and complex than they seem at first glance!

14. You talk both about Scarlett’s qualities and her amazing struggle to survive, but also about the price she has to pay for her way of dealing with things. What do you think is the most important lesson we have to learn from her? Is her story ultimately an inspiration or a warning?

To me, Scarlett is a story of a gamble gone wrong, a woman who risks everything and then loses everything for her pains. Ultimately, she's an antiheroine and a bad example of what happens when you dump everything out with the bathwater...but one that we love to read and rediscover. As Grandma Fontaine says, "...There’s something unnatural about a woman who isn’t afraid…always save something to fear—even as you save something to love." We can take that message to heart or, like Scarlett, choose to meet that obtuse advice with a deaf ear and a frightened heart like Scarlett's. Either way, life within the struggle promises to be a hell of a ride. 
Liked what you read? You can order Erin's book here

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Poster of the Week

Scarlett and Rhett get the single-color treatment in this set of matching Spanish posters (date unknown). Rather trippy looking, don't you think?

Images from

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Heroine's Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder

Editors' Note: A while back, we received a lovely email from Erin Blakemore, who had some very kind words for the blog. But that's not the cool part. This is: you see, not only is Erin is a longtime Gone with the Wind fan, she is also a first-time author! Her first book, The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder, debuts in bookstores today.

Erin was kind enough to send us a review copy of her book, which explores classic literary heroines and includes a chapter on our much-loved Scarlett O'Hara. So today we're delighted to offer you a look at
The Heroine's Bookshelf.  Also, be sure to stay tuned later this week for an interview  with Erin about her book, literary heroines and, of course, GWTW and Scarlett. Thank you to Erin for her generosity and kindness in sharing her book with us. Congratulations to you!
--iso and Bugsie

It starts with a heroinea larger-than-life, unforgettable heroine. Boil down the many divergent reasons why all of us are fans of Gone with the Wind and you’ll find that the reality is actually quite simple: the story of Scarlett O’Hara moved us at some intrinsic level, so much so that we return to her story again and again, trying to unlock what made her tick, sharing in her triumphs, mourning in her epic defeats. Scarlett’s journey is both her own and ours. 

And it is this very kind of intersection—the literary journey of the heroine and the emotional journey of readerthat Erin Blakemore explores in her insightful new book, The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Heroine’s Bookshelf takes twelve classic heroines down from the bookshelf to explore the enduring values modern women can learn from their literary sisters. You’ll find many familiar and well-loved characters within its pages: Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennet, Jo March, and Anne Shirley, among others (including Scarlett O’Hara for us Windies).

The Heroine’s Bookshelf examines each heroine in light of her defining characteristic (ex: Anne Shirley embodies ‘Happiness,’ while Scarlett O’Hara naturally represents ‘Fight’). Blakemore offers reflections, at turns both poignant and funny, about how women can thoughtfully apply these timeless values in a modern world that can be infinitely harried and complex, one that all too often does not allow for moments of introspection. Each chapter also ends with two fun tidbits, “Read This Book” (life situations especially suited to the heroine’s novel) and “Literary Sisters” (a list of literary characters similar to the heroine).

But The Heroine’s Bookshelf doesn’t just discuss these remarkable heroines’ stories in a vacuum. For behind every literary heroine stands another powerful and even more important womanthe author of each book. Blakemore weaves in insights about how each author’s life informed the literary world she chose to create, from great personal joys, in some cases, to devastating life blows, in others. Taken together, the vignettes of both authors and literary heroines come together to offer a meditation about the nature of writing, the enduring meaning of literature and the power of the human spirit. 

Ultimately, there are many adjectives to describe The Heroine’s Bookshelf. “Clever,” “touching” and “insightful” are but some. But if we had to pick just one it would be “timely.” In today’s world, fraught with economic turmoil and flooded with problems large and small, who couldn’t use a little inspiration from some of the bravest, coolest women in literature? We here at How You Do Run On obviously can’t turn that down. We really enjoyed this charming book and we know you will too.

So be sure to check The Heroine's Bookshelf and reacquaint yourselves all over again with the tremendous heroines you know and love. You won't be disappointed.  In fact, it might just make you square your shoulders, gather up your strength and declare "Tomorrow is another day..."

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Quotable Rhett Butler: A Mouthful of Dead Sea Fruit

This week's quote was submitted by our reader Bella. It's one of the lines from Rhett's final speech:
"Something, someone has made you realize that the unfortunate Mr. Wilkes is too large a mouthful of Dead Sea fruit for even you to chew."
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter LXIII
The Dead Sea fruit, or the apple of Sodom as it was often called, had been a topic of fascination for the Western culture for centuries and by the 19th century it had become a popular trope. It was used to describe a thing whose attractive appearance was deceiving, for one who got hold of the apple of Sodom either tasted it only to find it bitter or, in some takes, was surprised to see it turn to ash before his eyes.

Both of these versions have a ground in reality, for the fruit actually exists. It has, as you can see in the wikipedia picture, the appearance of an edible fruit, perhaps even an apple, but the interior is empty and its flesh bitter. One can imagine many a traveler had a nasty surprise trying out this "apple." As for the other version, in which the fruit turns to ashes, it is probably related to the way this plant spreads its seeds. When the fruits are ripe, they burst, sending off their fibrous contents. Apparently, this also happens if one exerts the slightest pressure on a ripe fruit - they are left with only the remains of the fruit (the "ashes") in their hands.

The apple of Sodom was first mentioned in ancient sources. It appears in Tacitus' fifth book of the History and in Josephus Jewish War. Both these sources stress the fact that the fruit dissolves into smoke and ashes, not that it is bitter to the taste. Mentioned in the Bible as well, the Dead Sea fruit became a famous motif and elicited a great deal of curiosity in the Western world. Authentic reports from travelers were greatly valued, because there was an important current of suspicion regarding its actual existence. Some authors claimed that the apple of Sodom had never been the fruit of a real plant growing in the Dead Sea region, but just a cleverly-found metaphor to signify the vain pleasures of the world.

Rhett obviously uses this expression in the sense in which it was most often used in modern times - to indicate the bitterness of a fruit which had been pleasing to the eye. It is the sense in which it appears in Paradise Lost for example (via wiki): 
"(...) greedily they plucked
The fruitage fair to sight, like that which grew
Near that bituminous lake where Sodom flamed;
This more delusive, not the touch, but taste
Deceived; they, fondly thinking to allay
Their appetite with gust, instead of fruit
Chewed bitter ashes, which the offended taste
With spattering noise rejected: oft they assayed,
Hunger and thirst constraining; (...)"
                                          (book X, 560-568)
And now to close this post, let me ask you this. It's clear that once Scarlett got Ashley (no matter under what circumstances), she would have been disappointed and probably found him "a mouthful of Dead Sea fruit." But do you think that it was possible for her to realize that he wasn't good for her without getting him? Could anything other than actually getting him open her eyes to his real worth (or lack thereof)?

And, of course, a thank you to Bella for emailing us about this particular quote. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rue de la Paix

In keeping with our look yesterday at period inspirations for Scarlett's white dress, here's a little collage I made of Scarlett in all her white-ruffled glory at Tara. Enjoy!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Doppelganger Dresses, Part 7: Scarlett's White Ruffled Dress

Doppelganger Dresses returns from a small foray into accessories and back to our main focus--that's right, dresses! And this week we're highlighting one of my favorite dresses from Gone with the Wind, the white ruffled dress that Scarlett wears in the opening scene. It's such a great 'statement' dress, conveying volumes about Scarlett's pampered existence and coquettish personality from the very first moments of the film. I love it because it's so full and flouncy. It's also a familiar find in fashion plates.

After the jump, you'll find two period styles that resemble Scarlett's white ruffled frock. One exception to note, though: both of our look-a-like dresses are long-sleeved. Day dresses were universally long-sleeved in the 1860s. But don't let the discrepancy between history and Hollywood keep you from enjoying the fashion plates.  

And as always, we welcome your thoughts. Which one looks more like Scarlett's dress to you? Let us know in the comments. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mastering the Art of Ladyhood: The Education of Ellen Robillard

“From the day when Ellen first came to Tara, the place had been transformed.  If she was only fifteen years old, she was nevertheless ready for the responsibilities of the mistress of a plantation.  Before marriage, young girls must be, above all other things, sweet, gentle, beautiful and ornamental, but, after marriage, they were expected to manage households that numbered a hundred people or more, white and black, and they were trained with that in view.

"Ellen had been given this preparation for marriage which any well-brought-up young lady received, and she also had Mammy… She quickly brought order, dignity and grace into Gerald's household, and she gave Tara a beauty it had never had before.”
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter III

Gone with the Wind presents Ellen Robillard O’Hara as many things—a vivacious young belle, a melancholic woman doomed by a star-crossed love affair, Scarlett’s childhood idol, the embodiment of Southern ladyhood. We know Ellen’s sedate reign at Tara transformed Scarlett’s girlhood home into one imbued with “order, dignity, and grace” as MM describes in the passage above. But exactly what kind of schooling did young aristocratic women like Ellen receive towards achieving this end?

Before we move forward with answering that question, let’s quickly reacquaint ourselves with Ellen Robillard O’Hara’s vital stats. These clues will prove important in deciphering what kind of education a young lady like Ellen would have received. From her age (32) at the start of GWTW, we know that Ellen was born in 1829, the child of a coastal aristocratic family of French descent. She was raised in Savannah, Georgia, of course, but her mother’s family lived in and then fled Haiti during the revolution of 1791. Ellen grew up reared in the ways of the Southern elite, became a charming belle, and then married Gerald O’Hara at the tender age of 15.

Why is this all important? Several reasons. First and most importantly, women’s education in the antebellum South has traditionally received rather light attention from historians, meaning some level of detective work is involved in writing a post like this one. Secondly, American education in the early 19th century was in a constant state of flux. There were many different formats of schooling available and advances in education tended to blur into one another. So Ellen’s background is the very best evidence we have to examine what her formal education might have looked like.

Before we begin, some quick notes on sources: Much of my research for this post comes from a tremendous book called The Education of the Southern Belle: Higher Education and Student Socialization in the Antebellum South by Christine Anne Farnham. This book is also rounded out by a memoir of an antebellum girl of Ellen’s generation: Social Life in Old New Orleans, Being Recollections of my Girlhood by Eliza Moore Chinn McHatten Ripley. Eliza Ripley was born in 1832, making her three years younger than the lovely but fictitious Ellen Robillard. She also grew up in very similar societal context--planter class, living prominent Southern city with French influence. 

Fair warning: there's a lot of information to take in here, so I'm going to try to break it down as much as possible. First up is a brief overview of women's education in the South from the late colonial era through the early antebellum period.  Using this, we'll then move on to examining in greater detail what kinds of things a lady of Ellen's social stature would have learned in school.  

An Overview of Women's Education in the South 

By the mid 1700s, French schools started to became a means for girls' education in the South. These schools were largely concentrated in bigger coastal cities and operated by unmarried women, widows, or husband-and-wife teacher teams. As the name suggests, instruction in French was a core part of the curriculum, along with writing, reading, arithmetic, and needlework.  Instruction in the ornamental arts (dancing, music, drawing, and handicrafts) was an essential focus as well. Evidence indicates that French schools were likely more prominent in the South than the North. 

Why? First, Southern society was aristocratic in nature and, as such, sought to model itself upon European nobility and manners. Knowledge of French was considered to be an barometer of upper-class status. But the predominance of French schools was also likely a matter of mere geography. The South was a stone’s throw from the Caribbean—and many native French speakers originated from the Caribbean, particularly as immigrants fleeing the Haitian Revolution.   

French schools varied from small day schools to posh boarding schools with a number of additional academic subjects, such as history, philosophy, and geography. French schools were popular among the Southern elite, as they served two essential functions.  First, the schools afforded young belles the opportunity to cultivate "refinement" and master womanly arts such as needlework, French, and proper etiquette. But just as importantly, French schools offered girls the chance to mingle amongst the proper social set and thus expand their horizons for their true calling--marriage.  Because education, as we will soon see,  was largely designed towards this end, emphasizing the veneer of learning over, well, actual learning. 

But there's one more advancement in women's education that we need to note before moving on our subject list. And that is academies. Academies for girls began to appear in the late 1700s and gradually supplanted the earlier French schools throughout the South. But this transition was a slow one and the difference in educational offerings  between French schools and academies tends to be hazy. But one key distinction exists:  unlike French schools, academies emphasized academic subjects over the decorative arts (music, dancing, painting, needlework, etc.), minimizing these courses to elective offerings. 

Still with me? There's extra credit for all those pupils who follow me after the jump...that and a full curriculum of ladylike subjects a well-bred young girl like Ellen Robillard would have studied in school.

Poster of the Week

This week's poster from 1954 uses bold colors to depict a couple of momentous scenes from the movie.

Image from Poster information cited from Herb Bridges' "Frankly My Dear..."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Dress That Makes a Statement

Most people love the red dress Walter Plunkett had Scarlett wear at Ashley's birthday party. Others prefer Margaret Mitchell's take and go with the green low-cut dress from the book. But here we are to tell you that both Mitchell and Plunkett were actually wrong! How We Do Run On has the definite answer. Here's Scarlett should have worn to Ashley's birthday party if she wanted to really make a statement:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Rue de la Paix

Simple is good. When you have such a lovely picture of Rhett and Scarlett to start with, do you really need much more? I think not! 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Doppelganger Dresses, Part 6: Accessories Edition

Accessories make the outfit. That's the mantra for this week's edition of Doppelganger Dresses, which paradoxically features not a single dress (gasp! horror!). But we hope you will still find it enjoyable, as we've got some nifty period inspirations for several GWTW costume accessories. They include Scarlett's white and black lace hat from the honeymoon and the knit hat and jacket Melanie wears to greet Ashley at the train station. 

As always, you can find them after the jump. Let us know what you think! And fear not, dress fans: next week we'll be back with another look-a-like GWTW dress for you. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Poster of the Week

After a small trip around the world in the last few installments, we return Stateside for this week's poster selection. Used to advertise the 1941 movie re-release, this 11x15 poster once again incorporates my favorite Rhett and Scarlett embrace ever (no, not really). 

Image from Poster information cited from Herb Bridges' "Frankly My Dear..."

The Quotable Rhett Butler: Of Sparta and Shields

Tuesday, 10 PM - exhausted and fighting imminent painful death a nasty cold, blogger Bugsie takes a quick look at the handful of links about Plutarch and decides to go to bed instead.
Wednesday, 9 PM - still exhausted but now convinced she'll live to whine about it on the intertubes, blogger Bugsie decides life is too good to be wasted reading about Plutarch and wastes it surfing the internet instead. 
Thursday, 8 PM - the time for whining and Plutarch has come, be prepared.

I naturally assumed you were all dying to see the process that led to this post, or at least know the reason for its delay. So now that that's out of the way, and before you have the chance to dispel my egocentric illusions, let's move on to an overdue quote from our favorite eloquent hero:
"Where is your patriotism, your love for Our Glorious Cause? Now is your chance to tell me to return with my shield or on it."
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter XXIII
This is one of the lines from Rhett's departing speech at Rough and Ready, and I would argue that as far as advice goes, it is one of his most efficient lines too.  For, once she recovers her wits, Scarlett does indeed express a desire to see him - or at least the million pieces of him that survived the encounter with a cannonball, anyway - returning on a shield.

As you probably guessed from my intro, this line has its origins in  Moralia, a famous work of  the Greek historian Plutarch. But, like some of the other classical references we've analyzed so far, this expression had entered 19th century popular culture to define a certain attitude towards war and sacrifice in general. Like Thermopylae, like the Horace quotes, it was commonplace.

To return "either with this or upon this" was what a Spartan mother told her son when he left for battle, handing him his shield. Or at least that's how the story goes in Sayings of Spartan Women, a section of Plutarch's Moralia. Whether it's true or not, it is hard to tell, for Plutarch is the source for everything we know about Spartan women; we don't have much material for comparisons. And the image he builds with his collection of anecdotes is that of mothers who put country, honor and bravery above their sons' lives, of women that are faithful and virtuous, self-effacing in face of their men, but proud and defiant in front of the enemies. 

[If it sounds familiar, I will tell you that a love for Sparta's chief values characterized many societies, and that there were even voices at the beginning of the Civil War comparing the South to Sparta. For my fellow nerds those of you who want to study the matter further, Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve has an essay called "A Southerner in the Peloponnesian War," in which he attempts a larger comparison of the two wars. You can read it here.]

But returning to our quote, why was it such an important point for a man to return with his shield? The reasons are three, and can be arranged in concentric circles from the level of the individual soldier to that of the entire community. A man who abandoned his shield was most often a coward. Since the shields were large and heavy, those who ran away from the enemy in battle had no option but to leave them behind. At best a man returning without his shield had not been able to defend it, and his honor, from the enemy. But at worst, he was a deserter.

Beyond this disgrace, a man returning without a shield was a man who had squandered an important property of his family, for shields were expensive and so they were carefully passed down from father to son. And finally, losing or abandoning one's shield meant endangering one's comrades and ultimately risking the outcome of an entire battle. The Greek phalanx presented an unbreakable surface of interlocked shields to the enemy. The shield of one soldier served to protect not just himself, but his fellows as well.  If he dropped it, the enemies had the means to breach the phalanx.

So now that we dove into the meaning of this phrase, one of the many classical references Mitchell uses in regards to war, I am thinking we could do with a topic for discussion. Assuming you too would want to discuss this further,  I would very much like to hear your opinion on one aspect. Do you think Margaret Mitchell wanted us to see Rhett's gesture of joining the army at the last moment as bravery or foolishness? We know how Scarlett sees it, but does the book as a whole support her view?

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Making of a Masterpiece: An Interview with GWTW Author Sally Tippett Rains

Editors' Note: Today it is our honor and pleasure to feature a guest post from  our long time reader and commenter Rita from St. Lou. Rita is here to give you more details about Gateway to the Wind, the Gone with the Wind conference that will take place in St. Louis in November, and she has a special surprise for us: an interview with Sally Tippett Rains, author of a book about Gone with the Wind and host of Gateway to the Wind. Enjoy and please let us  know what you think about the event (will you be able to attend?) and the points Rita and Sally discussed in the interview. 

St. Louisan Sally Tippett Rains author of THE MAKING OF A MASTERPIECE (The True Story of Margaret Mitchell's Classic Novel, Gone With The Wind) will host a 3-day conference, Nov. 5--Nov.7 2010, to celebrate Margaret Mitchell's birthday and the 70th Anniversary of the St. Louis premiere of GWTW.

This series of spectacular events features a discussion session with several of the surviving cast members of the movie, and a presentation by Herb Bridges, famed GWTW collector and author of GONE WITH THE WIND: THE THREE DAY PREMIERE IN ATLANTA. Mr. Bridges will be speaking about his book at the Conference.

Additional scheduled events include a GWTW memorabilia exhibit featuring the collection of Novella Perrin, PhD. and the "Fiddle-Dee-Dee Follies," a musical production saluting GWTW.  A separate but related event, "Gateway to the Wind Charity Ball" will be held for the benefit of Rainbows for Kids, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization aiding children with cancer and their families.

Just for you my fellow Windies, I bring you a GWTW Scrapbook exclusive interview with Sally. Enjoy!
Rita from St. Lou
What inspired you to write your book, The Making of a Masterpiece? 
There was an article I saw online that said Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler could have been based after these two real people. I love doing research so I started digging into it and pretty soon I was writing a book.  My research showed that while author Margaret Mitchell probably did not base her characters after these two people, she may have based the "star-crossed" lovers storyline on them. The research was interesting never the less and I included it in my book.

In the three years that it took to research and write the book, what was the most challenging aspect of the project?
As far as challenging, there was nothing difficult in writing the book. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute and did not want to stop to turn the book in. I met the most interesting people. They were all so nice and helpful. I wish I could have interviewed Olivia de Havilland, I tried very hard to get an interview with her but she lives in Paris and many times I thought I got her but something would happen. I was able to talk to six actors who were in the movie, though.

You've met some members of Margaret Mitchell's family, did anybody surprise you with a unique story about her?
Margaret Mitchell had no children so there really are not a lot of relatives still around. The most interesting thing about interviewing members of her family was that after a long process of working with one of her cousins, she abruptly asked me not to use what she had told me. She had actually given me some interesting information, but this woman was old and had some illness going on in her family and I wanted to just respect her so I dropped that part of the book.

How does Mitchell's family feel about being associated with the book and the movie?
In my research I found some ground-breaking evidence that they were happy to be associated with the movie, but unhappy with Margaret because they felt she should have said the book was based on their family. I was able to view a family scrapbook which I have a copy of. This will be available for viewing at the Gateway To The Wind event being held in St. Louis November 5-7.

Your event "Gateway to the Wind", which will be held in St. Louis on the 70th anniversary of the the St. Louis premiere of the movie, brings together GWTW actors from the movie, collectors, experts and "Windies."  What do you hope to accomplish by bringing this group of people together that hasn't already been done?
Most of the Gone with the Wind events have centered just around the movie. This event brings in the element of the real-life history in Margaret Mitchell's family which caused her to write the book.

Herb Bridges is scheduled to speak about the Atlanta premiere of GWTW.  He's been respected for years as the foremost authority of the movie.  What can you tell us about him?
Herb Bridges is a real Southern gentleman. As a young boy he worked at the Loews Theatre in Atlanta where Gone with the Wind premiered. He had a great interest in the movie and began collecting memorabilia. He met some of Margaret Mitchell's relatives including her brother and made quite a career out of lecturing and writing about Gone with the Wind.

Dr. Novella Perrin will also be speaking, and will exhibit her extensive collection of GWTW memorablia.  What are you looking forward to seeing most at the exhibit?
I am excited to see Aunt Pittypat's parasol. Aunt Pitty was an interesting character added possibly for comedic purposes, but also because she had an Aunt Pittypat herself. The character was loosely based on the elderly aunts in her family who raised various members of the family on their plantation, Rural Home.

I'm really looking forward to the memorabilia exhibit. It had been scheduled for a museum but at the last minute the museum pulled out and we were lucky enough to find someone willing to step in and put on the exhibit. I'd like to thank you, Rita for doing that. You, along with the students you teach at ITT Technical Institute will be transforming a meeting room into a beautiful exhibition room. I've been able to meet the students and they seem so talented and enthusiastic so I can't wait to see what they do with the exhibit.

Which actors from the movie are scheduled to attend the Conference?
Actors from the movie include the three "Beaus," the actors who portrayed Beau Wilkes at various ages: Mickey Kuhn, Patrick Curtis, and Greg Giese. The other guests are all going to be so interesting to Gone With The Wind fans. We have the sons of Marcella Rabwin who was GWTW producer David Selznick's executive assistant; the niece of Susan Myrick, who was Mitchell's friend and she worked as a consultant in Hollywood on Gone With The Wind, and a man whose ancestral property butts up next to the Fitzgerald property which was Mitchell's relatives'.  There are a few other surprises who will be announced as we go.

You're also hosting the "Gateway to the Wind Charity Ball" for the benefit of your non-profit organization, Rainbows for Kids.  Tell us about the that.
In 1999 my little six year old niece was diagnosed with cancer. She, as all children are, was one of the lights of our lives. We wanted to help others like her so my family put on a party at Cardinal Glennon Hospital where Annie was being treated. She helped us with the refreshments and passing out the toys. After she passed away we continued putting on fun parties and events and here we are eleven years later. None of us gets paid, we spend all the money we get on the projects for the kids. This past summer we had a "baseball team" and kids of all ages and skill levels were able to play on this team which included their siblings also. Siblings tend to get left out so we always include them. Each year we put on one big fundraiser so I thought, "how about doing a ball!"  We will have some great silent auction items--some are Gone With The Wind items, but others are autographed sports items and just general items. The one thing that goes fast each year will be the "Magnolia Mania."  For $20 a person buys a flower and there is a prize with it that is worth $25. We usually sell out with that the first 15 minutes.

What do you think, does Scarlett get Rhett back in the end?
Yes, I think she does. He is very hurt at the end but throughout the book his goal was to get her and once he did, he actually fell in love with her I felt. I disagree with Margaret Mitchell trying to make us believe that Scarlett actually did love him at the end and she just realized it. To me she was just playing her Scarlett games. She seemed to be trying to get Ashley even in his most grieving hour and when she realized she was never going to get him she decided maybe Rhett wasn't so bad. In Mitchell's real-life Fitzgerald family, her grandmother Annie was the one that people point to as having the most qualities similar to Scarlett's. One thing which came out in my research was that Annie's husband John got fed up with her and moved out. He moved into the old Markham house down the street and remained there, so that may be the real-life incident that triggered Mitchell to have Rhett finally and dramatically leave.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rue de la Paix

Scarlett doesn't need to get all the glory all of the time. Lately, we've had some very nice discussions about Suellen and Carreen's fashion preferences and appearance. So this week's collage is a tribute to the younger O'Hara girls. Just because your older sister was the belle of five counties doesn't mean that you can't have pretty things too!

O'Hara Sisters

Friday, October 1, 2010

Doppelganger Dresses, Part 5: Scarlett's Green Ballgown (Book Edition)

"On the bed lay the apple-green, watered-silk ball dress with its festoons of ecru lace, neatly packed in a large cardboard box.  It was ready to be carried to Twelve Oaks to be donned before the dancing began, but Scarlett shrugged at the sight of it.  If her plans were successful, she would not wear that dress tonight."
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter V

For me, one of the best things about working on this blog is that I have gained much richer appreciation of Margaret Mitchell and her staggering abilities as a researcher. Because the more research I do myself (with all kinds of easy, modern shortcuts available to me), the more amazed I am by MM's impeccable fidelity to historical details, not matter how small or how large. 

This week's selection for Doppelganger Dresses is an excellent example of this. The quoted passage is just a little scrap of detail thrown into the narrative about Scarlett's preparation for the fateful Twelve Oaks barbeque. But even this small mention matches up with the historical record, as we've found a very lovely evening dress of the period that resembles Scarlett's own ball gown.

After the jump, you will find the fashion plate in question. It is taken from the January 1861 edition of Godey's Lady's Book, so just a little over three months prior to the barbeque. Check it out and let us know what you think. Do you feel that it matches up with the description in GWTW?

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