March 19 Writer Birthdays

1084 – Li Qingzhao, Chinese writer, poet, essayist, artist, and lyricist; she is considered one of the greatest poets in Chinese history.

1503 – Benedetto Varchi, Italian humanist, historian, writer, poet, playwright, and translator; he is known for writing a 16-volume history of Florence, on a commission from Cosimo Medici I, but his Storia fiorentina was so frank that it was not published there until 1721.

1641 – Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi, prolific Syrian author, poet, travel writer, Islamic scholar, and mystic who wrote about subjects including Sufism and agriculture; he also wrote ethnographic works based on his travels to Tripoli, Egypt, Jerusalem, Lebanon and other areas of the Middle East.

1721 – Tobias Smollett, Scottish poet and author best known for his picaresque novels and for his work’s influence on Charles Dickens.

1800 – Osip Senkovsky (born Józef Julian Sękowski), prolific Lithuanian and Russian writer, poet, journalist, editor, literary critic, sinologist, orientalist, science-fiction writer, musician, and inventor; he wrote on a wide range of topics, from mathematics to medicine, and under the pen name Baron Brambeus published a series of fantastic voyages, including one to the center of the Earth (The Sentimental Journey to Mount Etna) and another to an antediluvian Egyptian civilization flourishing on the now-frozen Siberian plain (The Scientific Journey to Bear Island).

1811 – María Josefa Massanés, Spanish Catalan writer and Romantic poet who had an interest in popular education and religion, and defended women writers.

1821 – Richard Francis Burton, British explorer, translator, and travel writer best known in the literary world for his translations of eastern texts, most notably The Thousand and One Nights; he was one of the first Englishmen to explore Arabia and reach Mecca.

1824 – William Allingham, Irish poet, diarist, and editor who is best known for his posthumously published diary, in which he records his lively encounters with Tennyson, Carlyle, and other writers and artists.

1826 – Julie Hausmann, Latvian and German poet and author whose work was published, at her request, without mention of her name.

1828 – Ellen Mary Patrick Downing, Irish poet, nationalist, nun, and religious teacher who is regarded as one of the three chief poets of Irish nationalism; as a nun, she was known as Sister Mary Alphonsus.

1828 – Maria Vlier, award-winning Dutch Surinamese schoolbook writer and teacher who wrote the first history textbook focused on the history of Suriname.

1844 – Minna Canth (born Ulrika Wilhelmina Johnsson), controversial Finnish writer, playwright, journalist, businesswoman, and social activist; her work addresses women’s rights in the context of a culture that denied the expression and realization of women’s aspirations; she was the first woman to receive her own flag day in Finland, on March 19, also Finland’s day of social equality.

1858 – Kang Youwei, Chinese writer, philosopher, political reformer, calligrapher, and politician who was an ardent Chinese nationalist.

1868 – Gretchen Osgood Warren, award-winning U.S. poet, actress, and singer; her sister, Mary Alden Childers, was a writer and Irish nationalist, and her nephew Erskine Hamilton Childers served as President of Ireland.

1872 – Olivia Susan “Susy” Clemens, U.S. literary critic and biographer who was the daughter of writer Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and the inspiration for some of his works; at 13 she wrote a biography of him, which he later published in his autobiography. Her father was heartbroken when she died of spinal meningitis at age twenty-four. Her biography of him was published in 1988 in its entirety as Papa: An Intimate Biography of Mark Twain, a volume which also included a biography of Susy Clemens and her correspondence with her father.

1882 – Korney Chukovsky, Russian writer, poet, translator, journalist, essayist, literary critic, children’s writer, literary historian, and opinion journalist; one of the most popular children’s poets in the Russian language, he used catchy rhythms, inventive rhymes, and absurd characters, inviting comparisons with the U.S. children’s author Dr. Seuss. He adapted the Doctor Dolittle stories into a book-length Russian poem as Doctor Aybolit (Dr. Ow-It-Hurts), and translated a substantial portion of the Mother Goose canon into Russian as Angliyskiye Narodnyye Pesenki (English Folk Rhymes).

1885 – María Collado Romero, Cuban poet, pioneering journalist, and suffragist; she was the creator and president of the Democratic Suffragist Party of Cuba.

1889 – Sarah Gertrude Millin (née Liebson), South African novelist, short-story writer, biographer, nonfiction author, editor, and scholar.

1894 – Jirí Langer (full name Jirí Georgo Mordechai Langer) Jewish Czech poet, scholar, essayist, journalist, and teacher who wrote in Hebrew; he is remembered as the first non-Eastern European Jew to write poetry in Hebrew in modern times, as well as for the daring homoerotic strain that runs through his writing.

1894 – Lilith Lorraine (pen name of Mary Maude Dunn Wright), U.S. pulp-fiction author, poet, journalist, and editor.

1903 – Bettina Ehrlich (née Bauer), Austrian author and illustrator of children’s books who relocated to England in 1938 because her Jewish background put her in danger when the Nazis invaded Austria.

1906 – Clara Estelle Breed, U.S. librarian, writer, and activist who is remembered for her support for Japanese American children during World War II and her outspoken opposition to the internment order that forced them and their families into concentration camps. Breed communicated with children in the camps, sending reading materials and other necessities and visiting them; she also wrote articles and letters to members of Congress about the unfair treatment of Japanese Americans placed in the camps.

1909 – Józef Łobodowski, Polish poet, writer, novelist, translator, linguist, and opinion journalist who spoke out against anti-Semitism and in defense of ethnic minorities before and after the Second World War.

1909 – Elżbieta Zawacka (known also by her war-time pseudonym, Zo), Polish university professor, author, mathematician, spy, and World War II freedom fighter who was the only women ever to hold the rank of Brigadier General in the Polish Army; she was also the only woman among the Cichociemni (the “Silent Unseen”), elite special-operations paratroopers of the Polish Army, who parachuted into Nazi-occupied Poland as a courier, carrying letters and other documents to and from the Polish government in exile.

1911 – Jerzy Jurandot (born Jerzy Glejgewicht), popular Polish and Jewish poet, dramatist, screenwriter, satirist, and songwriter; in 1942 he became the literary manager of a theatrical revue in the Warsaw Ghetto, but escaped before the Ghetto annihilation and hid with his non-Jewish friends at an estate near the city.

1916 – Irving Wallace, bestselling U.S. author of novels, screenplays, and nonfiction; he often wrote about characters who were outsiders, and was known for the amount of historical research — and sex — in his books. One critic said Wallace invented a style of novel that is at once a strong story and encyclopedia, with “some sex thrown in to keep the reader’s pulse going.”

1918 – Mary Bartlet Leader, U.S. novelist who wrote on supernatural themes; her work was the inspiration behind the popular Fleetwood Mac song “Rhiannon.”

1919 – Peter Abrahams (real name Peter Henry Abrahams Deras), award-winning South African novelist, journalist, short-story writer, nonfiction author, lecturer, autobiographer, and political commentator whose work dealt with political and social issues, especially racism; he was a key figure in South Africa’s literary heritage, although he relocated to Jamaica. As a student he said he wanted to be a writer so he could have “cakes and ginger beer for breakfast, fish and chips for lunch and whole fowl at night”; later that day, he was hospitalized to be treated for starvation. His book Mine Boy is considered to be the first African novel written in English to receive international attention. He was murdered in 2017 at the age of 97.

1919 – Sikandar Abu Zafar, award-winning Bangladeshi journalist, poet, and magazine founder.

1921 – Cécile Miguel, award-winning Belgian artist and writer.

1926 – Valerio Zurlini, award-winning Italian filmmaker, theatrical director, and screenwriter.

1928 – Duccia Camiciotti, award-winning Italian poet, writer, and essayist.

1930 – Lina Vasylivna Kostenko, award-winning Ukrainian poet, writer, children’s author, and professor; she was a leading representative of the group of Ukrainian poets of the 1960s known as the Sixtiers.

1931 – Emma Andijewska, Ukrainian Surrealist poet, writer, journalist, and painter.

1933 – Philip Roth, Pulitzer Prize-winning and multiple National Book Award-winning U.S. novelist and short-story writer; much of his work is semi-autobiographical, often centered around a secular, idealistic Jewish man trying to distance himself from Jewish traditions, but Roth also incorporates social commentary, humor, and satire.

1933 – Renée Adorée Taylor (née Wexler), U.S. actress, screenwriter, playwright, producer, and director; she was nominated for a Best Screenplay Academy Award for the film Lovers and Other Strangers, but is best known for playing Sylvia Fine on the television sitcom The Nanny.

1935 – Lília Momplé, Mozambican writer, teacher, and actress who was deeply influenced by her grandmother, who could not read or write, but who often told stories that inspired young Lília because their heroes were fragile, rather than more typically powerful ones; her work tends to emphasize issues of race, class, gender, color, and ethnic differences.

1938 – Sai Paranjpye, award-winning Indian screenwriter and film director.

1948 – Ricky Lee, prolific and award-winning Filipino writer, screenwriter, journalist, novelist, and playwright.

1950 – James Redfield, U.S. author, lecturer, and screenwriter whose new-age novel The Celestine Prophecy was a bestseller.

1955 – John Burnside, award-winning Scottish novelist, poet, short-story writer, and memoirist.

1956 – Alina Fernández, Cuban writer, radio personality, and anti-Communist activist; the daughter of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, she is one of the best known Cuban critics of her father’s and uncle’s regimes.

1958 – Alison Robertson, award-winning New Zealand writer and journalist.

1961 – Karl Martin Widmark, bestselling Swedish children’s writer, teacher, and literacy activist whose most famous books are the “LasseMaja” junior mystery series, in English named “The Whodunit Detective Agency”; several of his works have been adapted in television shows, movies, board games, and video games.

1965 – Dunya Mikhail, Iraqi poet, translator, and journalist; her work often addresses themes of war, exile, and loss.

1968 – Diana Ivanova, Bulgarian journalist, author, and documentary filmmaker whose work explores intercultural dialogue between Bulgarians and people of other countries, particularly Germany.

1972 – Cathrine Sandnes, South Korean writer, journalist, magazine editor, and award-winning martial artist.

1976 – Hasmi Hashim, award-winning Malaysian writer, poet, lyricist, scriptwriter, and politician.

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