January 17 Writer Birthdays

1600 – Pedro Calderón de la Barca (full name Pedro Calderón de la Barca y Barreda González de Henao Ruiz de Blasco y Riaño), a dramatist, poet, and writer of the Spanish Golden Age who was also a soldier and a Roman Catholic priest.

1706 – Benjamin Franklin, American philosopher, writer, newspaper editor, printer, statesman, scientist, inventor, and historian who was one of the founding fathers of the United States; he is also well known as the inventor of the lightning rod, bifocals, and the flexible urinary catheter; the writer of Poor Richard’s Almanack (under the pseudonym Richard Saunders); and a member of the Constitutional Congress.

1714 – Natalia Borisovna Dolgorukova (née Sheremeteva), Russian princess and writer who has been called the most accomplished Russian memoirist of the 18th century.

1776 – Jane Porter, English historical novelist, dramatist, and literary figure; her book The Scottish Chiefs, about Scottish hero William Wallace, is one of the earliest historical novels and remains popular among children in Scotland.

1800 – Frances Vane (Marchioness of Londonderry), English noblewoman and travel writer who is best known for her books A Journal of a Three Months’ Tour in Portugal, Spain, Africa, & c and A Narrative of Travels to Vienna, Constantinople, Athens, Naples, &c, and also for being the great-grandmother of Winston Churchill.

1814 – Ellen Wood, bestselling English novelist, better known as Mrs. Henry Wood and remembered especially for her novel East Lynne.

1820 – Anne Brontë, British author, poet, and governess, and the youngest and least well-known of the literary Brontë sisters; her 1848 book The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is considered to be one of the first feminist novels. Her works was first published under the pen name Acton Bell.

1821 – Laura Beatrice Mancini (born Laura Beatrice Oliva), Italian poet who wrote a variety of poetry and ran a literary salon for liberal-minded Neapolitans; many of her own poems focused on contemporary political events such as the unification of Italy.

1846 – Elsbeth von Nathusius, German short-story writer, author, and biographer; she sometimes wrote under the name F.L. Born.

1858 – Tomás Carrasquilla Naranjo, influential, award-winning Colombian writer who is considered one of his country’s most original literary figures.

1870 – Kazimiera Zawistowska (pseudonym Ira), Polish poet, writer, and translator; she wrote Modernist erotic and landscape poems characterized by the use of mysticism, symbolism, and Parnassianism.

1871 – Nicolae Iorga, Romanian historian, politician, literary critic, memoirist, poet and playwright who was also a founder of the Democratic Nationalist Party and a member of Parliament.

1875 – Florencio Sánchez, Uruguayan playwright, journalist, and political figure who is considered one of the founding fathers of theater in the River Plate region of Argentina and Uruguay.

1877 – Cecilia May Gibbs (better known as May Gibbs), Australian children’s author, illustrator, children’s writer, and cartoonist; she is best known for her gumnut babies (also known as “bush babies” or “bush fairies”), and for the book Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

1879 – Máire Ní Chinnéide (also known as English Mary or Molly O’Kennedy), Irish language activist, writer, and playwright.

1883 – Compton Mackenzie (Sir Edward Montague Compton Mackenzie), Scottish writer of fiction, history, biography, and memoir, best known for his comic works, including Monarch of the Glen; he was also one of the founders of the Scottish Nationalist Party.

1885 – Emmy Hennings (born Emma Maria Cordsen), German poet and performer who married celebrated Dadaist Hugo Ball.

1885 – Osugi Sakae, radical Japanese writer, journalist, Esperantist, translator, and anarchist; he published numerous anarchist periodicals, helped translate western anarchist essays into Japanese for the first time, and created Japan’s first Esperanto school in 1906.

1886 – Ronald Firbank, British author of eight short novels, influenced by the London aesthetes of the 1890s, especially Oscar Wilde.

1891 – Leonard D. White, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. historian who specialized in administrative history of the U.S.

1898 – Sulpicio Osório, Filipino Visayan editor, poet, novelist, essayist, and short-story writer of.

1899 – Neville Shute, prolific British novelist, pilot, and aeronautical engineer; his full name was Neville Shute Norway, but he used the shorter version in his writing to distance his engineering career from his fiction.

1900 – Kaitarō Hasegawa, Japanese novelist, mystery writer, short-story writer, travel writer, and memoirist who wrote under numerous pen names, each with a unique personality, and caused a sensation with what critics considered the sheer brilliance of his fiction, nonfiction, and translations.

1914 – William Stafford, U.S. poet and essayist who was U.S. Poet Laureate and Oregon Poet Laureate; he was known for his pacifism, his unique method of composition, his soft-spoken voice, and his independence from social and literary expectations.

1915 – Roger Windle Pilkington, British author and biologist who came to public attention with his 20-volume Small Boat series, recounting trips along Europe’s inland waterways in an Admiral’s Barge, which he had converted into a seagoing cabin cruiser named “Commodore.”

1918 – Eva González Fernández, Spanish Leonese-language writer.

1918 – Elsa Grave, Swedish novelist, poet, and artist.

1918 – Fabián Dobles Rodríguez, Costa Rican writer, poet, essayist, novelist, journalist, short-story writer, and left-wing political activist who gained international recognition as an author dealing with the plight of the poor and with social protest.

1921 – Vasilij Melik, Slovenian historian, writer, journalist, and university teacher.

1925 – Robert Cormier, U.S. journalist and author of young-adult fiction, known for dark novels exploring themes including abuse, mental illness, violence, revenge, betrayal, and conspiracy; his book The Chocolate War, despite being considered by some critics as one of the best YA novels of all time, has been banned in some places for sexual content, violence, and strong language.

1926 – Madina Gulgun, Iranian-Azerbaijani writer and poet.

1930 – Hajra Masroor, Pakistani feminist short-story writer who made her place in the history of Urdu fiction with her bold imagination and nontraditional stories, told in a down-to-earth style.

1934 – Sydney Hillel Schanberg, Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist who was best known for his coverage of the war in Cambodia; he was played by Sam Waterston in the award-winning film The Killing Fields, based on his experiences working in Cambodia with Cambodian journalist Dith Pran.

1938 – John Bellairs, U.S. author best known for fantasy and gothic mystery novels for young adults.

1939 – Mah Chonggi, Japanese-born South Korean poet, radiologist, and professor whose poems deal with his experiences as a doctor, his life abroad in Japan and the United States, and his conflicted feelings toward Korea.

1939 – Roger Leighton Hall, award-winning British-born New Zealand playwright and screenwriter who is one of New Zealand’s most successful playwrights, arguably best known for comedies that carry a vein of social criticism and feelings of pathos.

1940 – Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali, South African poet whose book Sounds of a Cowhide Drum was the bestselling poetry book in South African history.

1943 – Elsa López, Equatorial Guinean writer, poet, biographer, and anthropologist.

1950 – Honey Irani, award-winning Indian screenwriter and short-story writer who was also a Bollywood child star; her son and daughter, Farhan Akhtar and Zoya Akhtar, are both critically acclaimed filmmakers.

1961 – Suzanne Berne, award-winning U.S. novelist and professor whose work features dark character studies and unexpected domestic and psychological drama in bucolic suburban settings.

1962 – Sebastian Junger, U.S. author, filmmaker, and journalist, best known for creative nonfiction works like The Perfect Storm.

1964 – Michelle Obama (full name Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama, née Robinson), U.S. lawyer, author, autobiographer, and former First Lady of the United States.

1964 – Raoul Schrott, award-winning Austrian poet, writer, literary critic, translator, professor, and broadcaster.

1967 – Wendy Mass, award-winning U.S. author of children’s and young adult novels.

1968 – Hideaki Sena, award-winning Japanese novelist, science-fiction writer, and pharmacologist.

1969 – Cecilia May Gibbs, British-born Australian children’s author, illustrator, and cartoonist.

1974 – Annemarie Jacir, award-winning Palestinian poet, short-story writer, filmmaker, and screenwriter.

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