1084 – Li Qingzhao, Chinese writer, poet, essayist, artist, and lyricist; she is considered one of the greatest poets in Chinese history.
1721 – Tobias Smollett, Scottish poet and author best known for his picaresque novels and for his work’s influence on Charles Dickens.
1821 – Sir Richard Francis Burton, British explorer, translator, and travel writer best known in the literary world for his translations of eastern texts, most notably The Thousand and One Nights; he was one of the first Englishmen to explore Arabia and reach Mecca.
1824 – William Allingham, Irish poet, diarist, and editor who is best known for his posthumously published diary, in which he records his lively encounters with Tennyson, Carlyle, and other writers and artists.
1844 – Minna Canth (born Ulrika Wilhelmina Johnsson), controversial Finnish writer, playwright, journalist, businesswoman, and social activist; her work addresses women’s rights in the context of a culture that was antithetical to the expression and realization of women’s aspirations; she was the first woman to receive her own flag day in Finland, on March 19, also Finland’s day of social equality.
1872 – Olivia Susan “Susy” Clemens, American literary critic and biographer who was the daughter of writer Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and the inspiration for some of his works; at 13 she wrote a biography of him, which he later published in his autobiography. Her father was heartbroken when she died of spinal meningitis at age twenty-four. Her biography of him was published in 1988 in its entirety as Papa: An Intimate Biography of Mark Twain, a volume which also included a biography of Susy Clemens and her correspondence with her father.
1903 – Bettina Ehrlich (née Bauer), Austrian author and illustrator of children’s books who relocated to England in 1938 because her Jewish background put her in danger when the Nazis invaded Austria.
1916 – Irving Wallace, bestselling American author of novels, screenplays, and nonfiction; he often wrote about characters who were outsiders, and was known for the amount of historical research — and sex — in his books. One critic said Wallace invented a style of novel that is at once a strong story and encyclopedia, with “some sex thrown in to keep the reader’s pulse going.”
1918 – Mary Bartlet Leader, American novelist who wrote on supernatural themes; her work was the inspiration behind the popular Fleetwood Mac song “Rhiannon.”
1926 – Valerio Zurlini, Italian filmmaker and screenwriter.
1930 – Lina Vasylivna Kostenko, award-winning Ukrainian poet, writer, children’s author, and professor; she was a leading representative of the group of Ukrainian poets of the 1960s known as the Sixtiers.
1933 – Philip Roth, Pulitzer Prize-winning and multiple National Book Award-winning American novelist and short-story writer; much of his work is semi-autobiographical, often centered around a secular, idealistic Jewish man trying to distance himself from Jewish traditions, but Roth also incorporates social commentary, humor, and satire.
1933 – Renée Adorée Taylor (née Wexler), American actress, screenwriter, playwright, producer, and director; she was nominated for a Best Screenplay Academy Award for the film Lovers and Other Strangers, but is best known for playing Sylvia Fine on the television sitcom The Nanny.
1938 – Sai Paranjpye, award-winning Indian screenwriter and film director.
1950 – James Redfield, American author, lecturer, and screenwriter whose new-agey novel The Celestine Prophecy was a bestseller.
1955 – John Burnside, award-winning Scottish novelist, poet, short-story writer, and memoirist.
1956 – Alina Fernández, Cuban writer, radio personality, and anti-Communist activist; the daughter of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, she is one of the best known Cuban critics of her father’s and uncle’s regimes.
1965 – Dunya Mikhail, Iraqi poet, translator, and journalist; her work often addresses themes of war, exile, and loss.