February 17 Writer Birthdays

0624 – Wu Zhao (commonly known as Wu Zetian, but also as Wu Hou or Tian Hou), Chinese empress, writer, poet, essayist, and literary patron who was the only legitimate female sovereign in the history of China; during her 40-year reign, China grew larger, corruption in the court was reduced, the culture and economy were revitalized, and the nation was recognized as one of the great powers of the world.

1618 – Matthias Abele, German author, poet, jurist, and lawyer.

1648 – Barbara Ogier, Flemish playwright whose play Dood van Achilles (The Death of Achilles) included an introduction in which Ogier stresses that women have their own view of history, which she felt was particularly appropriate in this case, because the motive for the Trojan War was the abduction of a woman, Helen.

1742 – Dositej Obradović, Serbian writer, poet, linguist, playwright, librettist, linguist, translator, and philosopher who was his country’s first Minister of Education and a key figure in the Serbian national and cultural renaissance.

1776 – Elizabeth Bath (née Paddy), English poet whose work took a variety of forms, including sonnets and longer poems; her poetry explores themes of religion, loss, friendship, and sensibility.

1803 – Edgar Quinet, French writer, poet, politician, professor, historian, translator, journalist, philosopher, and linguist.

1812 – Ellen Sturgis Hooper, U.S. poet who was widely regarded as one of the most gifted poets among the New England Transcendentalists; her sister, Caroline Sturgis Tappan, was also a prominent Transcendentalist poet.

1821 – Enrichetta Caracciolo, Italian writer, journalist, playwright, autobiographer, and women’s rights activist who is best known for her autobiographical work Misteri del chiostro napoletano (Secrets of a Neapolitan cloister).

1823 – Nadezhda Stepanovna Sokhanskaia (pseudonym Kokhanovskaya), Russian short-story writer and autobiographer who wrote about the Ukraine.

1827 – Maria Francesca Rossetti, English author, essayist, translator, and nun who was a member of the artistic and literary Rossetti family, as the sister of pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti and poet Christina Georgina Rossetti; Christina’s best-known poem, “Goblin Market,” was dedicated to Maria.

1836 – Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (born Gustavo Adolfo Claudio Domínguez Bastida), Spanish Romanticist poet, short-story author, playwright, literary columnist, and artist; one of the most important figures in Spanish literature, he is considered the most-read Spanish writer after Cervantes.

1845 – Luís Caetano Pereira Guimarães, Brazilian writer, poet, playwright, novelist, and diplomat.

1848 – Louisa Lawson (née Albury), Australian poet, writer, publisher, newspaper editor, suffragist, and feminist; she was also the mother of writer Henry Lawson.

1850 – Ann-Margret Holmgren (full name Anna Margareta Holmgren, née Tersmeden), Swedish author, feminist, suffragist, and pacifist; she also wrote under the pseudonym Märta Bolle.

1857 – Pedro Paterno (full name Pedro Alejandro Paterno y de Vera Ignacio), Filipino writer, poet, novelist, autobiographer, librettist, and politician. His birthdate is sometimes given as February 27, 1858.

1862 – Mori Ōgai, Japanese novelist, poet, playwright, translator, literary critic, linguist, medical writer, army surgeon, and military general who played a key role in modernizing Japanese literature.

1864 – Hilda Beatrice Hewlett, British and New Zealand autobiographer, nonfiction author, aviator, and aviation entrepreneur who was the first British woman to earn a pilot’s license; she also founded and ran two related businesses: the first flying school in the U.K. and a successful aircraft manufacturing business that produced more than 800 airplanes and employed as many as 700 people.

1864 – Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson, Australian bush poet, journalist, and author who wrote many ballads and poems about Australian life, focusing on the rural and outback areas; his best known poems include “Waltzing Matilda,” regarded widely as Australia’s unofficial national anthem.

1870 – Ester Ståhlberg, Finnish writer, journalist, and educator who as the wife of president Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg was the first First Lady of Finland.

1873 – Teresa Labriola, Italian writer, professor, lawyer, jurist, suffragette, and feminist who was the first Italian woman to become a lawyer.

1877 – Isabelle Eberhardt, Swiss explorer, author, journalist, short-story writer, who often dressed like a man, and who sometimes used the name Si Mahmoud Saadi; her support for decolonization while living in Algeria, her conversion to Islam, and her insistence on socializing with Arabs led some Europeans to think of her as a spy, which was probably the reason for an unsuccessful attempt at assassinating her. She died in a flash flood in Algeria at the age of 27. Her life has been the subject of several works, including the film Isabelle Eberhardt and the opera Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt.

1877 – Jóhanna Maria Skylv Hansen (born Jóhanna Maria Joensen), award-winning Faroese author and translator who was the first woman from the Faroe Islands to have her work published.

1878 – Lian Heng, Taiwanese historian, politician, poet, merchant, journalist, editor of a pro-Japanese newspaper, and advocate of the opium trade.

1879 – Ilse von Stach (originally Stach von Goltzheim), German writer, playwright, novelist, fairy-tale writer, and lyric poet; her most famous work, a Christmas play, Das Christ-Elflein (The Christmas Elf), was set to music by composer Hans Pfitzner and turned into an opera of the same title, which premiered at the Bavarian State Opera.

1883 – Todor “Todoš” Manojlovic, influential Serbian poet, playwright, essayist, and art critic whose first major work, Centrifugal Player, laid the foundations of modern Serbian drama.

1895 – Aliagha Vahid (born Aliagha Mammadqulu oglu Isgandarov), award-winning Azerbaijani poet whose early satirical poems criticized social inequities, superstition, narrow-mindedness, tyranny, and unfairness, but he was best known for reintroducing the Medieval ghazal style back into Soviet Azerbaijani poetry.

1899 – Jibanananda Das, popular Bangladeshi poet who is credited with introducing modernist poetry to Bengali Literature.

1901 – Motojiro Kajii, Japanese author, poet, and short-story writer whose works are admired for their finely tuned self-observation and descriptive power.

1903 – Sadegh Hedayat, Iranian writer, poet, novelist, translator and intellectual; best known for his novel The Blind Owl, he was one of the earliest Iranian writers to adopt literary Modernism.

1906 – Agniya Lvovna Barto (А́гния Льво́вна Барто́), award-winning Soviet poet, journalist, translator, screenwriter, and children’s writer of Russian Jewish origin; she also anchored a radio program, Find a Person, which helped people find family members lost during World War II, and helped reunite at least a thousand families.

1906 – Juan Boria, Puerto Rican poet who was known as the Negro Verse Pharaoh and celebrated for his Afro-Caribbean poetry.

1908 – H. Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah (better known as Hamka), Indonesian journalist, professor, political activist, and philosopher.

1912 – Andre Norton, pen name (eventually changed legally) of Alice Mary Norton, U.S. science-fiction author who also wrote under the pen names Andrew North and Allen Weston; she was the first woman to be named Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy, the first woman to be SFWA Grand Master, and the first inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. The annual award for best young-adult novel, given by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, is named after her.

1912 – Virginia Sorensen, Newbery Award-winning U.S. novelist and children’s author.

1913 – Russel B. Nye, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. author, biographer, professor, and popular-culture specialist.

1914 – Julia de Burgos, Puerto Rican poet and advocate of Puerto Rican independence; she served as Secretary General of the Daughters of Freedom, the women’s branch of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, and was a civil-rights activist for women and Afro-Caribbean writers.

1914 – Pêr-Jakez Helias (born Pierre-Jacques Hélias, pseudonym Pierre-Jakez Hélias), French Breton stage actor, journalist, author, poet, and radio writer who worked in the French and Breton languages and co-founded a summer festival at Quimper which became the Festival de Cornouaille.

1917 – Abdur Rahman Badawi, prolific Egyptian existentialist writer, poet, philosopher, and professor who has been called the “foremost master of Arab existentialism.” He wrote in his native Arabic, and also in English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian.

1918 – William Bronk, National Book Award-winning U.S. poet who works explore the nature of consciousness, time, and space, using language stripped of ornament, metaphor, and imagery.

1923 – Madan Mani Dixit, award-winning Nepalese novelist, editor, journalist, and short-story writer.

1923 – Michel Rivgauche (born Mariano Georges Antoine Ruiz), award-winning French lyricist, writer, children’s writer, screenwriter, and librettist.

1924 – Margaret Truman, U.S. biographer and mystery writer known for the popular Capital Crimes series; the daughter of U.S. President Harry Truman, she was also an actress, journalist, radio and television personality, and coloratura soprano.

1927 – Juan Almeida Bosque, Cuban poet, writer, composer, rebel leader, and politician.

1928 – Robert Newton Peck, U.S. author of young-adult novels, best known for the semi-autobiographical novel, A Day No Pigs Would Die; he has also written nonfiction books, songs, poetry, and three television specials.

1929 – Saleh Morsi (born in Kafr El-Zayat), popular Egyptian screenwriter and novelist who was best known for his spy thrillers.

1929 – Chaim Potok, U.S. rabbi, short-story writer, and bestselling National Book Award-nominated author, most celebrated for his book The Chosen; his work was significant for exploring the conflict between modernity and traditional aspects of Jewish thought and culture.

1930 – Ruth Rendell (Baroness Rendell of Babergh), Edgar Award-winning English author of crime novels, thrillers, and psychological murder mysteries; she created the Inspector Wexford mysteries.

1940 – Hadisa Qurbonova (sometimes known by the mononym Hadisa), Tajikistani poet, playwright, editor, and broadcaster; she was named National Poet of Tajikistan in 2010.

1942 – Huey Percy Newton, U.S. African-American writer, poet, essayist, newspaper founder, social activist, and revolutionary, best known for cofounding the Black Panther Party and for helping to craft the Party’s ten-point manifesto; he earned a PhD in Social Philosophy and wrote extensively on political and social issues.

1949 – Maja Herman Sekulić, Serbian writer, poet, novelist, essayist, biographer, literary critic, translator, children’s writer, and university teacher.

1951 – Meena Alexander, Indian-born poet, scholar, novelist, writer, and professor.

1953 – Nina Josu, Moldovan writer and activist who is president of the Association for Romanian Literature and Culture.

1954 – Dosta Dimovska, Macedonian poet and politician.

1955 – Mo Yan, Nobel Prize-winning Chinese novelist and short-story writer “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history, and the contemporary.”

1961 – Helena Sinervo, award-winning Finnish poet, novelist, children’s writer, lyricist, and translator.

1969 – Akram Pedramnia, Iranian and Canadian writer, poet, novelist, translator, Joycean scholar, literary critic, researcher, activist, and physician; she is best known for her work in challenging and criticizing Iranian censorship that opposes the freedom of speech and expression of writers and artists.

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