1785 – Bettina von Arnim (born Elisabeth Catharina Ludovica Magdalena Brentano), German countess who was a writer, novelist, publisher, composer, singer, illustrator, social activist, and salonnière; the archetype of the Romantic era’s zeitgeist, she was well known for the company she kept, numbering among her closest friends Goethe and Beethoven. As a composer, her style was unconventional, melding favorite folk melodies and historical themes with innovative harmonies, phrase lengths, and improvisations that became synonymous with the music of the era.
1818 – Thomas Mayne Reid, Irish and American adventure novelist whose work was a major influence on Arthur Conan Doyle.
1886 – Frank Luther Mott, Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian and journalist.
1896 – Robert Emmet Sherwood, American writer who won Pulitzer prizes in both drama and biography.
1908 – Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, American author whose upbringing in a house of twelve children inspired her memoir, Cheaper by the Dozen; daughter of Lillian Moller Gilbreth and Frank Bunker Gilbreth, pioneers in the field of time and motion study, now called organizational behavior.
1914 – Marguerite Duras, Saigon-born French novelist, playwright, short-story writer, essayist, screenwriter, and experimental film director whose work sometimes drew on her childhood in Asia; she was a French resistance fighter during World War 2.
1928 – Maya Angelou, influential, award-winning American author, poet, playwright, essayist, screenwriter, actress, and civil-rights activist, best known for her series of autobiographies and for reciting a poem for the inauguration of U.S. President Bill Clinton; much of her work centers on themes of racism, identity, family, and travel.
1932 – Johanna Reiss, Dutch-born Caldecott Medal-winning children’s writer whose books are based on her childhood experiences as a Jewish girl in the Netherlands during the Holocaust.
1938 – P. Valsala, Indian Malayalam novelist, short story writer, social activist, and educator.
1940 – Frances Mayes is an American novelist, poet, memoirist, essayist, screenwriter, and university professor ; she is best known for her bestselling book, Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy, a memoir about buying, renovating, and living in a villa in rural Cortona in Tuscany.
1942 – Kitty Kelley, American journalist and author of bestselling unauthorized biographies of celebrities.
1942 – Elizabeth Levy, prolific author of children’s books.
1945 – B.T. Lalitha Naik, Indian writer, journalist, novelist, politician, and social activist; she wrote poems, short stories, books, articles, and radio programs, and was also known for leading important literary, social and language-rights movements such as Bandaya movement and Gokak agitation, and for her work as a government minister.
1948 – Dan Simmons, American science-fiction, fantasy, and horror novelist who has won the Hugo, Locus, and World Fantasy awards.
1956 – David E. Kelley, Emmy Award-winning screenwriter and television producer known for such shows as L.A. Law, Picket Fences, Ally McBeal, and more.