Butterfly McQueen

On this day in 1911, Thelma “Butterfly” McQueen was born in Tampa, Fla. She was best known for her role as Prissy in the 1939 MGM movie “Gone with the Wind.” Butterfly, which she changed her legal name to, was a lifelong atheist except for her childhood religious indoctrination.

The role of Prissy, she would later say, “was not a pleasant part to play — I didn’t want to be that little slave. But I did my best, my very best.” She quit movie acting in 1947 to avoid further typecasting, going to work as a real-life maid, Macy’s sales lady and seamstress.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science in 1974 at age 64 from the New York City College. Butterfly became the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s premiere Freethought Heroine in 1989 and was an FFRF Life Member. She died Dec. 22, 1995, from burns sustained when a kerosene heater she was lighting malfunctioned and burst into flames. (D. 1995)

Freedom From Religion Foundation