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The Legacy of
Gone With the Wind

Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel of war and survival, set during in the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction won a Pulitzer Prize and was read by nearly everyone in the 1930s. The 1939 movie was one of the most anticipated films of all time and is wildly considered the greatest movie ever made.

In addition, the book and novel introduced (or reintroduced) several new names: Melanie, Tara, Scarlett, Rhett, Ashley, Bonnie, Brent, etc. Of these, Melanie and Tara are perhaps the most successful.

Melanie Hamilton Wilkes is the moral heart of the novel. She is patient, kind, caring, unselfish, intellectual, mothering, etc, etc. Her name, a French form of a Greek name (from “melaina”) means “Black” and refers to a dark complexion. It was introduced to the future United States by refugee Huguenots of the 17th century, but remained highly rare until the 1940s, after Gone With the Wind was published and/or filmed.

Popularity of Melanie:
Popularity (for newborns)
In the United States...
1900-1940: N/A
1940-1950: 348th most popular.
1950-1960: 172nd most popular.
1960-1970: 114th most popular.
1970-1980: 56th most popular.
1980-1990: 83rd most popular.
1990-2000: 109th most popular.
1998: 127th most popular.
1999: 119th most popular.
2000: 111th most popular.
2001: 107th most popular.
2002: 88th most popular.

Melanie’s noble, yet weak husband was known as Ashley Wilkes (in the book it was his middle name). Ashley was a surname, and as such, was occasionally given to boys in the 19th century, especially if their mother’s maiden name was Ashley. So George Ashley Wilkes was a perfectly acceptable name for a 19th century character.

After the book and movie came out, Ashley had a minor spurt in popularity for boys. In the sixties, however, Ashley became known as a girls’ name

Popularity of Ashley, for males:
Popularity (for male newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1910: 902nd most popular.
1910-1940: N/A
1940-1950: 884th most popular.
1950-1960: 810th most popular.
1960-1970: 733rd most popular.
1970-2000: N/A

Popularity of Ashley, for females:
Popularity (for female newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1960: N/A
1960-1970: 662nd most popular.
1970-1980: 142nd most popular.
1980-1990: 4th most popular.
: 1st most popular.
1998: 4th most popular.
1999: 6th most popular.
2000: 4th most popular.
2001: 4th most popular.
2002: 6th most popular.

Scarlett and Rhett:
The names of strong and vivacious, yet selfish and rascally pair of Scarlett and Rhett were a little longer on catching on. They finally did so at the end of the 20th century.

Like Ashley Wilkes, Scarlett O’Hara also went by her middle name (only her father called her Katie Scarlett). It was originally a surname, and referred to one who sold brightly colored cloth.

Rhett, like Scarlett and Ashley, is a surname, possibly connected with the Welsh name Rhys (“Fiery”).

Popularity of Scarlett:
Popularity (for newborns)
In the United States...
1900-1990: N/A
1990-2000: 886th most popular.
1998: 851st most popular.
1999: 879th most popular.
2000: 948th most popular.
2001: 957th most popular.
2002: 807th most popular.

Popularity of Rhett:
Popularity (for newborns)
In the United States...
1900-1960: N/A
1960-1970: 799th most popular.
1970-1980: 801st most popular.
1980-1990: 783rd most popular.
1990-2000: 703rd most popular.
1998: 651st most popular.
1999: 709th most popular.
2000: 673rd most popular.
2001: 735th most popular.
2002: 675th most popular.

A minor character was named Brent Tarleton. Coincidentally or not, the name Brent also became common right after the period when Gone With the Wind was popular.

Popularity of Brent:
Popularity (for newborns)
In the United States...
1900-1930: N/A
1930-1940: 795th most popular.
1940-1950: 322nd most popular.
1950-1960: 209th most popular.
1960-1970: 127th most popular.
1970-1980: 85th most popular.
1980-1990: 99th most popular.
1990-2000: 183rd most popular.
1998: 250th most popular.
1999: 283rd most popular.
2000: 321st most popular.
2001: 330th most popular.
2002: 369th most popular.

Another minor character, Scarlett’s sister Suellen, also had her name pop up briefly in the 1940s.

Popularity of Suellen:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1940: N/A
1940-1950: 803rd most popular.
1950-1960: 884th most popular.
1960-2000: N/A

Gone With the Wind is often credited for the rise of the name Bonnie in the thirties and forties (Bonnie Butler was Rhett and Scarlett’s daughter). However, as the evidence indicates, the name Bonnie was already rising in popularity long before the book or the movie came out.

Popularity of Bonnie:
Popularity (for newborns)
In the United States...
1900-1910: 207th most popular.
1910-1920: 180th most popular.
1920-1930: 119th most popular.
1930-1940: 68th most popular.
1940-1950: 34th most popular.
1950-1960: 50th most popular.
1960-1970: 90th most popular.
1970-1980: 168th most popular.
1980-1990: 222nd most popular.
1990-2000: 509th most popular.
1998: 728th most popular.
1999: 822nd most popular.
2000: 927th most popular.
2001: 907th most popular.
2002: N/A

Scarlett O’Hara’s beloved plantation was named Tara, after the mythological home of ancient Irish kings. Soon after the book and movie the name Tara became used for girls.

Popularity of Tara:
Popularity (for newborns)
In the United States...
1900-1950: N/A
1950-1960: 521st most popular.
1960-1970: 232nd most popular.
1970-1980: 43rd most popular.
1980-1990: 52nd most popular.
1990-2000: 141st most popular.
1998: 181st most popular.
1999: 233rd most popular.
2000: 243rd most popular.
2001: 272nd most popular.
2002: 300th most popular.

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