February 20 Writer Birthdays

1713 – Anna Maria Elvia, Swedish feminist writer who was renowned for her academic abilities and regarded intellectual development as not just a right but a duty of women.

1805 – Angelina Emily Grimké, U.S. author, pamphlet writer, lecturer, abolitionist, and women’s rights activist who grew up in a white, slave-owning family and, as a child, defied her parents by teaching slaves to read. She and her sister Sarah left South Carolina for Pennsylvania and became Quakers; they were the only prominent white Southern women to become well known as abolitionists. Their niece Angelina Weld Grimké was an influential African-American playwright and poet.

1870 – Pieter Cornelis Boutens, Dutch mystic poet, classicist, translator, and teacher.

1875 – Marie Marvingt, award-winning French athlete, mountaineer, aviator, balloonist, journalist, writer, and poet who was often described as the Fiancée of Danger; she also wrote under the pseudonym Myriel.

1883 – Naoya Shiga, Japanese novelist, playwright, magazine founder, and short-story writer; his work was distinguished by its lucid, straightforward style and its strong autobiographical overtones.

1888 – Georges Bernanos, French novelist best known for his Journal d’un Cure de Campagne (Diary of a Country Priest).

1894 – Jaroslaw Leon Iwaszkiewicz (pseudonym Eleuter), Polish writer, poet, essayist, dramatist, and translator who was nominated four times for the Nobel Prize in Literature; in 1988, he was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations for his role in sheltering Jews during World War II.

1901 – René Dubos, Pulitzer Prize-winning French-born microbiologist, pathologist, environmentalist, humanist, and author.

1902 – Ansel Adams, U.S. landscape photographer and environmentalist known for his black-and-white photography of the American West.

1912 – Pierre Boulle, French novelist and spy known for both The Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes.

1913 – Mary Durack, Australian author, poet, columnist, biographer, playwright, children’s writer, nonfiction author, and historian; she also wrote under the pen name Virgilia.

1917 – Hugo Alfaro, Uruguayan writer, journalist, film critic, autobiographer, and newspaper founder.

1919 – Matilde Elena López, Salvadoran poet, essayist, playwright, and literary critic who was part of the League of Anti-Fascist Writers, a group of young writers with leftist ideas; in April 1944, she participated in the movement to overthrow the government of dictator Maximiliano Hernández Martínez.

1924 – Alex La Guma, South African novelist and activist against apartheid; his vivid style, distinctive dialogue, and realistic portrayal of oppressed groups have made him one of the most notable South African writers of the 20th century.

1924 – Nevena Stefanova, Bulgarian poet, literary critic, essayist, and translator.

1925 – Robert Altman, U.S. screenwriter, film and television director, and producer who was nominated five times for the Best Director Oscar; his work spanned many genres, and his films have been called “acid satires and counterculture character studies that redefined and reinvigorated modern cinema.”

1925 – Rivka Basman Ben-Hayim, Lithuanian-born Israeli Yiddish poet, writer, teacher, and activist.

1925 – Alex La Guma, award-winning South African novelist and leader of the South African Coloured People’s Organisation (SACPO); his works helped characterize the movement against the apartheid era in South Africa, and his vivid style, distinctive dialogue, and realistic, sympathetic portrayal of oppressed groups have made him one of the most notable South African writers of the 20th century.

1926 – Richard Matheson, U.S. author of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, many of whose works have been adapted for screen.

1927 – Sidney Poitier, U.S.-born Bahamian actor, director, diplomat, and author who was the first black to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.

1932 – Bhabendra Nath Saikia, award-winning Indian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter, and film director.

1932 – Kuntagodu Vibhuthi Subbanna, influential, award-winning Indian dramatist and writer who wrote in the Kannada language and founded an important drama institute and a publishing house.

1933 – Fathia al-Assal, award winning Egyptian novelist, playwright, television writer, radio writer, and activist; she unsuccessfully ran three times for a seat in the Egyptian parliament.

1935 – Ellen Gilchrist, National Book Award-winning U.S. novelist, short-story writer, journalist, poet, and diarist.

1937 – George Leonardos, award-winning Egyptian-born Greek writer, journalist, news presenter, short-story writer, and author of historical novels and other books.

1939 – William Bayer, bestselling U.S. detective novelist and screenwriter who has also written under the pseudonym David Hunt; his son was the dramatist and screenwriter Eleanor Rosenfeld Bayer, also known as Eleanor Perry.

1940 – Clive Hirschhorn, South African writer, columnist, journalist, interviewer, biographer, lecturer, rare-book collector, and critic known for his long tenure as film and theater critic for the British Sunday Express newspaper and as the author of several books about the film industry and its stars.

1943 – Diana Lucile Paxson, U.S. fantasy and historical-fiction novelist, composer, journalist, and short-story writer whose work is primarily in the fields of Pagan and Heathen religious practices; she is a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism, where she is known as Diana the Listmaker.

1947 – Leonardo Moledo, award-winning Argentine writer, philosopher, journalist, historian, playwright, science-fiction writer, science writer, television presenter, educator, mathematician, and director of the Buenos Aires Planetarium.

1948 – Kirsten Hastrup, Danish anthropologist, university professor, and writer; some of her work explores the history and culture of Iceland and Greenland, as well as the relationship between the theatre and anthropology.

1948 – David Kertzer, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. historian, anthropologist, biographer, professor, and author who specializes in the political, demographic, and religious history of Italy.

1949 – Ashim Saha, award-winning Bangladeshi poet and novelist.

1950 – Jean-Paul Dubois, award-winning French journalist, novelist, and travel writer.

1951 – Sean Wilentz, U.S. historian, author, and professor whose work explores U.S. social and political history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

1952 – Elsa Bornemann, award-winning Argentine author, children’s writer, teacher, and composer.

1957 – Haidar Bagir, Indonesian author, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and lecturer who writes in the fields of Islamic philosophy, mysticism, and thought.

1961 – Ying Chen, award-winning Chinese author, essayist, and translator who now lives in Canada; she writes mostly in French and translates her own works into Chinese and English. Her work is characterized by a lean, polished and deceptively simple writing style, free of flourishes and excess verbiage.

1962 – Kenn Nesbitt, U.S. poet who writes for children and was named Children’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation.

1968 – Camilla Gibb, award-winning English-born Canadian novelist and memoirist.

1970 – Bianca Bellová, award-winning Czech writer, novelist, and translator.

1970 – Julia Franck, German novelist, essayist, editor, and short-story writer who does not describe herself as a feminist author, but whose works often explore women’s experiences of history, power structures, sexuality, motherhood, and other relationships; she was born in East Berlin, and as a child spent months living in a refugee camp with her family, an experience she draws upon in some of her writing.

1982 – Tania De Rozario, Singaporean writer, poet, curator, and visual artist.

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