May 16 Writer Birthdays

1718 – Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Italian writer, essayist, mathematician, theologian, philosopher, philanthropist, and humanitarian who was the first woman to write a mathematics handbook and the first woman appointed as a mathematics professor at a university. She wrote the first book discussing both differential and integral calculus, and also wrote extensively on the marriage between intellectual pursuit and mystical contemplation. The composer Maria Teresa Agnesi Pinottini was her sister.

1788 – Friedrich Rückert, German poet, writer, translator, and professor of Oriental languages.

1803 – Constantina Carolina Amalia “Amelie” von Strussenfelt, Swedish writer, poet, novelist, educator, painter, and women’s rights activist whose sister was the writer Ulrika von Strussenfelt.

1827 – Hedevig Rosing, Danish-born Norwegian author, educator, school founder, and suffragist who specialized in teaching deaf and mute students; she was the first woman to teach in Copenhagen’s public schools.

1884 – Eric P. Kelly, Newbery Medal-winning American children’s author, journalist, and academic.

1886 – Douglas Southall Freeman, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian, author, newspaper editor, radio commentator, and biographer of Robert E. Lee and George Washington.

1888 – Berthe-Sultana Bénichou-Aboulker, Algerian poet and playwright who wrote in French; her play La Kahena, reine berbière was the first work published by a Jewish woman in Algeria.

1890 – Gertrude Chandler Warner, American author of children’s books; best known as the first author of the beloved Boxcar Children series. The books were criticized for encouraging child rebellion by depicting children with little parental supervision; her response was that the children liked them for that very reason.

1898 – Desanka Maksimovic, Serbian poet, writer, professor, children’s author, and translator.

1901 – Lars Kornelius Edvard Berg, Norwegian novelist, short-story writer, playwright, and teacher who was influenced by ideas from Freud’s writings on psychoanalysis; his work was controversial for its candid treatment of sexual issues.

1905 – H.E. Bates, English novelist, journalist, essayist, and short-story writer.

1906 – Margret Rey, German-American co-author and illustrator (with her husband H.A. Rey) of the Curious George children’s books.

1910 – Olga Berggolts, Russian poet and radio broadcaster

1910 – Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, American educator, Transcendentalist writer, and translator who opened the first English-language kindergarten in the U.S.

1912 – Studs Terkel, Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, historian, and broadcaster who is best remembered for his oral histories of common Americans.

1917 – Juan Rulfo (full name Juan Nepomuceno Carlos Pérez Rulfo Vizcaíno), Mexican novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter, and photographer, who is considered one of Latin America’s most esteemed novelists and short-story writers; he strongly influenced author Gabriel García Márquez.

1922 – Bi Pu (Zhou Sunshan), Chinese novelist, essayist, translator, newspaper editor, short-story writer, and broadcaster.

1929 – Adrienne Rich, National Book Award-winning American poet, essayist, and feminist who has been called “one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century.”

1933 – Saifuddin Bohra, Pakistani author and political activist.

1934 – Robert Dallek, American professor, historian, and biographer who specializes in American presidents.

1934 – Yusufali Kechery, Indian poet, film lyricist, film producer, and director who is considered one of the modern era’s leading writers of Malayalam poetry.

1934 – Leela Nambudiripad (pen name Sumangala), popular Indian writer and children’s author who writes in Malayalam.

1944 – Ahmet Emin Atasoy, Bulgarian-born Turkish poet, author, teacher, and interpreter.

1946 – Laila Stien, Norwegian novelist, poet, children’s author, and translator.

1950 – Bruce Coville, prolific, award-winning American author of children’s and young-adult novels.

1953 – Mitra Phukan, Indian author, children’s writer, biographer, short-story writer, columnist, reviewer, translator, and classical musician; she writes in English.

1953 – Fa Poonvoralak, award-winning Thai novelist, short-story writer, essayist, poet, and filmmaker.

1953 – Jónína Leósdóttir, Icelandic novelist, journalist, biographer, playwright, children’s author, and politician. She is married to the former Icelandic Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who was the first openly lesbian head of government in modern history; they were one of the first same-sex couples in Iceland to get married, and until 2015, Jónína was the only modern person to have been the same-sex spouse of a sitting head of government.

1954 – Rajiva Wijesinha, Sri Lankan writer and professor who writes in English and is distinguished for his political analysis as well as his creative and critical work.

1960 – Dele Momodu (born Ayòbámidélé Àbáyòmí Ojútelégàn Àjàní Momodu), award-winning Nigerian journalist, writer, columnist, publisher, and motivational speaker.

1963 – Tiziano Scarpa, award-winning Italian novelist, playwright, comics writer, and poet.

1981 – Ánna Báttler (pen name of Ánna Vasílievna Levashóva), Russian poet, writer, actress, and philanthropist; her book Wild Russian Mother (Дикая русская мать) had to be re-edited after the original manuscript was banned by authorities for its descriptions of the public attitude toward children and education, the moral decay of Russian society, and the corruption of state officials.

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