1737 – Thomas Paine, English-born American writer, essayist, opinion journalist, politician, philosopher, and political activist known for Enlightenment Era ideals; his pamphlet Common Sense and other writings helped inspire the American Revolution.
1783 – Vasily Zhukovsky, Russian poet, translator, linguist, and literary critic.
1854 – Aletta Henriëtte Jacobs, Dutch physician, author, and lecturer who was an activist for women’s suffrage, the deregulation of prostitution, improving women’s working conditions, and peace. As the first woman officially to attend a Dutch university, she became one of the first female physicians in the Netherlands; she is also credited with founding the world’s first birth control clinic.
1863 – Anthony Hope, English author and playwright best known for his adventure novel, The Prisoner of Zenda.
1867 – Natsume Soseki (born Natsume Kin’nosuke), influential Japanese novelist who is commonly considered the greatest writer in modern Japanese history.
1874 – Amy Lowell, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. Imagist poet, editor, translator, and performer.
1923 – Chava Rosenfarb, Polish-born Jewish-Canadian novelist, poet, translator, and Holocaust survivor who was a major contributor to post-World War II Yiddish literature.
1935 – Lionel Fanthorpe, British priest and entertainer who wrote under a number of pseudonyms.
1940 – J.M. Coetzee, Nobel Prize-winning South-Africa born Australian novelist, essayist, linguist, and translator.
1944 – Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning U.S. author, poet, short-story writer, essayist, and social activist; she is best known for the novel The Color Purple; much of her work explores the lives of women of color and issues of social justice.
1956 – Chenjerai Hove, Zimbabwean poet, novelist, and essayist who wrote in both English and Shona; his work examined the psychic and social costs, especially to the rural population, of the war of liberation in Zimbabwe. He died while living in exile in Norway.