A startling thought this, that a woman could handle business matters as well as or better than a man, a revolutionary thought to Scarlett who had been reared in the tradition that men were omniscient and women none too bright.
This passage describes Scarlett’s revelation after looking through Frank’s poorly kept business ledgers, in Chapter XXXVI, that she could manage the mill more effectively than Frank. Though Scarlett is a strong, independent woman throughout the novel, this passage is the only statement that explicitly expresses ideas of gender equality. Many critics consider Gone with the Wind an early feminist work, a novel with a strong, smart, and capable female protagonist. Scarlett’s budding feminist mentality prompts the shock and condemnation of her society, which frowns on the idea of a woman owning and running a mill. Scarlett has difficulty hiring a man from her class to run her mill because they are all ashamed to work for a woman. She finds support from Rhett alone, because like her he is ahead of his time. Though Rhett often treats Scarlett like a child or a pet, he is one of the few men who expects women to have a brain. He nurtures Scarlett’s skills and encourages her to take advantage of her strengths.