May 21 Writer Birthdays

1546 – Madeleine de l’Aubespine, French writer, poet, literary patron, and lady in waiting to Catherine de Medici; l’Aubespine was one of the earliest female erotic poets and was one of the few female poets whose work was praised by “the prince of poets,” Pierre de Ronsard.

1688 – Alexander Pope, English poet and translator best known for his use of satirical verse; he is considered one of the foremost poets of his time.

1811 – Julia Griffiths, British writer, editor, and prominent abolitionist who worked with the American freed slave Frederick Douglass and was one of six founding members of the influential Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society; she is most noted for publishing Autographs for Freedom, an anthology of anti-slavery literature.

1864 – Stéphanie Clotilde Louise Herminie Marie Charlotte (Princess Stéphanie of Belgium), Belgian writer, memoirist, diarist, and inventor who was a Belgian princess by birth and Crown Princess of Austria through marriage to heir-apparent Archduke Rudolf. She was famously widowed when Rudolf and his mistress, Mary Vetsera, died in an apparent murder-suicide pact. When she later published her memoir, including Rudolf’s last letter to her — evidence of the suicide pact — a scandal ensued and police visited every bookshop in Vienna and seized all copies; it was later published overseas. She also invented a combined chafing dish and spirit lamp, for which she held a U.S. patent.

1880 – Tudor Arghezi (pen name for Ion N. Theodorescu), Romanian writer, poet, journalist, and children’s author who is best known for his unique contributions to poetry and to children’s literature.

1901 – Suzanne Lilar, Flemish Belgian novelist, playwright, journalist, essayist, literary critic, philosopher, and lawyer who wrote in French.

1906 – Profira Sadoveanu, Romanian writer, poet, journalist, children’s author, memoirist, interviewer, and translator who sometimes used the pseudonym Valer Donea; she was strongly influenced by the literary style of her father, novelist Mihail Sadoveanu, and adopted his florid descriptions, but she infused her writing with a feminine sensibility.

1912 – Siddhi Charan Shrestha, Nepalese writer, poet, journalist, and linguistic rights activist who was one of the most prominent writers in Nepal; his revolutionary poetry contributed to the struggle against the autocratic Rana regime, leading to his imprisonment for sedition because of one of his poems, which contained the now-famous line, “Without revolution, there can be no proper peace.”

1913 – Oloori Kofoworola “Kofo” Aina Ademola (Lady Ademola, née Moore), Nigerian children’s book author and educator who was the first black African woman to earn a degree from Oxford University and the first president of the National Council of Women Societies in Nigeria.

1916 – Harold Robbins, bestselling American author of popular novels, known for his deftness at blending his own life experiences, history, melodrama, sex, and high society into a fast-moving story.

1917 – Enid Elizabeth Backhouse, Australian novelist, scriptwriter, and playwright, best known for her family history Against Time and Place.

1922 – Surendra Mohanty, Indian writer, author, autobiographer, and politician who wrote in Oriya.

1923 – Dorothy Hewett, award-winning Australian novelist, poet, playwright, and feminist writer who has been called “one of Australia’s best-loved and most respected writers.”

1932 – Gabriele Wohmann, German novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter, and film director.

1935 – Hisako Matsubara, award-winning Japanese novelist, short-story writer, playwright, nonfiction author, editor, columnist, and critic who has published works in Japanese, English, and German; her novels are set in recent Japanese history and address cultural changes and western influences, and her nonfiction books highlight contrasts between Japanese history and European history.

1938 – Ana Diosdado, Argentine-born Argentinian-Spanish author, screenwriter, playwright, theater director, and actress.

1943 – Beverley Naidoo, award-winning South African author, children’s writer, novelist, and biographer.

1944 – Janet Dailey (full name Janet Anne Haradon Dailey), bestselling American author of romance novels, with many different series and stand-alone novels.

1948 – Elizabeth Buchan, British writer of novels, short stories, nonfiction, and biography; she is best known for her romantic novels.

1951 – Al Franken (Alan Stuart Franken), American comedian, screenwriter, author, actor, journalist, radio personality, and U.S. Senator.

1951 – Victoria (Torey) Lynn Hayden, American special-education teacher, university lecturer, and writer of fiction and nonfiction books based on her experiences teaching and counseling children with special needs.

1952 – Arezki Metref, Algerian journalist, writer, and poet.

1962 – Hege Storhaug, Norwegian writer, women’s rights activist, and journalist who has been particularly critical of Islam’s treatment of women; she is also a former player on the Norway women’s national volleyball team.

1964 – Miriam Toews, Canadian writer and actress, best known for her novels set in the Mennonite community.

1967 – Lemn Sissay, award-winning British author, poet, playwright, broadcaster, and university chancellor who was the official poet of the 2012 London Olympics.

1983 – P.V. Shajikumar, award-winning Malayalam author, screenplay writer, and software engineer.

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