1859 – John Tengo Jabavu, influential South African Xhosa writer, journalist, newspaper editor, politician, and political activist; his writing focused on the threat of growing Afrikaner nationalism and his demands for equal rights for South Africa’s black population; he was also a proponent of women’s rights and of public education.
1870 – Alice Hegan Rice, also known as Alice Caldwell Hegan, bestselling American novelist.
1887 – Aldo Leopold, American author, ecologist, philosopher, and environmentalist, best known for his bestselling book A Sand County Almanac.
1897 – Bernard DeVoto, Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian and author who specialized in the American West.
1903 – Alan Paton, South African author and anti-apartheid activist best known for his masterpiece, the novel Cry, the Beloved Country.
1903 – Ilse Weber, Czech author, poet, children’s writer, radio producer, and composer whose most notable works were songs and theater pieces for Jewish children; she died in Auschwitz in 1944, along with her son; her most popular book was Mendel Rosenbusch: Tales for Jewish Children.
1905 – Manfred Bennington Lee, American mystery writer who — along with his cousin Frederic Dannay — created the character Ellery Queen, a mystery writer who helped the police solve crimes; Ellery Queen was also the pseudonym that the cousins (and, later, other writers) wrote the books under.
1917 – Marie Illarionovna Vassiltchikov, Russian princess who wrote Berlin Diaries, 1940-1945, which describe the bombing of Berlin and events leading to the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler.
1919 – Robert C. O’Brien, Newbery Medal-winning American author and journalist who was best known for Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.
1931 – Mary Rodgers, American author of children’s books, notably Freaky Friday; she was the daughter of the composer Richard Rodgers and also wrote musicals.
1943 – Jill Churchill, Agatha Award-winning American mystery author.
1946 – Janet Campbell Hale, Native-American writer whose work explores Native American identity, poverty, and abuse, as well as the condition of women in society.
1952 – Diana Gabaldon, bestselling American author whose Outlander series contains elements of romance, historical fiction, mystery, adventure, and fantasy.
1954 – Tahar Djaout, Algerian journalist, poet, and fiction writer who was assassinated in 1993 because of his support of secularism and opposition to what he considered fanaticism.
1957 – Saeko Himuro, Japanese novelist, essayist, manga writer, and playwright; she is best known outside of Japan for the novel I Can Hear the Sea.
1961 – Jasper Fforde, British novelist known for his Thursday Next mystery series, who also writes alternate history and comic fantasy.
1976 – Alethea Kontis, award-winning American author of young-adult books, picture books, and speculative fiction; she is best known for her YA fairy tale novel, Enchanted.
1985 – Lucy Knisley, award-winning American author, travel writer, illustrator, comic artist, and musician; her work is often autobiographical, and food is a common theme. Her name is pronounced “Nicely.”