January 21 Writer Birthdays

1571 – Johannes Isacius Pontanus, Dutch historian, writer, and professor who is best known for writing histories of places.

1619 – Anders Christensen Bording, Danish poet, author, and journalist who is notable for his epigrams, ballads, and poems, as well as for writing and publishing the first Danish newspaper, the monthly Den Danske Mercurius, written in verse.

1638 – Beata Rosenhane, Swedish writer, poet, and baroness.

1733 – Antonio Francesco Frisi, Italian historian and author who wrote about the history of Monza, a city in Lombardy; he is considered the first historian of Monza.

1737 – Giustiniana Wynne (Countess Rosenberg-Orsini), Anglo-Venetian author of Italy who is best known for her love affair with aristocrat and Venetian statesman Andrea Memmo — who was not allowed to marry her because of the difference in their classes — and her friendship with Casanova, who convinced her that having sex with him would abort her unwanted pregnancy. It did not. The baby was adopted, and she eventually married an ambassador, after his death becoming a successful author of short stories and novels. She wrote in both Italian and French.

1739 – Andrés Cavo, Mexican Jesuit, author, and historian; his Historia de México, the first general history of the period of Spanish domination in Mexico, provided information for future historians of Mexico.

1780 – Rai San’yo (real name Rai Noboru), Japanese Confucianist philosopher, writer, poet, historian, educator, and ink wash artist. His most important work, Nihon Gaishi, was modeled on the Records of the Grand Historian and was the first comprehensive study of its find; in 22 volumes, it covered Japanese history from the emergence of the Minamoto clan through the reign of Tokugawa Iemitsu.

1792 – Tsjalling Hiddes Halbertsma, Dutch Frisian writer, poet, short-story writer, and merchant; he was the middle brother of the three Brothers Halbertsma, who played a role of crucial importance for the development of a written literature in the Western Frisian language.

1797 – Joseph Méry, French novelist, alternate-history writer, short-story writer, journalist, poet, playwright, librettist, and theatrical producer who was known for his wit; an ardent Romanticist, he collaborated with Auguste Barthélemy on many of his satires.

1804 – Eliza Roxcy Snow, renowned U.S. writer, poet, lyricist, hymnwriter, and Mormon Bishop who chronicled history, celebrated nature and relationships, and expounded scripture and doctrine; she was one of Mormon church founder Joseph Smith’s plural wives, and after his death, became one of Brigham Young’s wives. She has been called “Zion’s Poetess.”

1840 – Antoinette de Beaucaire, French Occitan-language writer whose works include Li Velugo (The Sparklets).

1840 – Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake, English physician, author, teacher, and feminist who led the campaign to secure women access to a University education; she was the first practicing female doctor in Scotland, a leading campaigner for medical education for women, and a cofounder of two medical schools for women. Her books deal with medical topics, as well as with the profession itself and with women in medicine.

1845 – Lepha Eliza Bailey, U.S. author, lecturer, writer, poet, editor, social activist, suffragist, and Prohibitionist.

1847 – Vicente Grez Yávar, Chilean writer, poet, novelist, journalist, newspaper editor and publisher, politician, and art critic; many of his fiction and nonfiction works explored the history of Chile, including the book, Las mujeres de la Independencia, a portrait of several important Chilean women of the early 19th century.

1852 – Emma Gad (born Emma Halkier), prolific, award-winning Danish writer who wrote plays and books that were often satirical, as well as a popular book on etiquette.

1853 – Helen Hamilton Gardener (born Alice Chenoweth), U.S. author, novelist, rationalist, writer, public intellectual, political activist, suffragist, editor, lecturer, essayist, short-story writer, and government functionary who is remembered for her role in the freethought and women’s suffrage movements and for her place as a pioneering woman in the top echelon of the U.S. civil service.

1864 – Israel Zangwill, British writer, playwright, comedian, journalist, novelist, and activist who was at the forefront of cultural Zionism during the 19th century.

1873 – Emilie Demant Hatt (born Emilie Demant Hansen), Danish artist, writer, ethnographer, and folklorist; her area of expertise was the culture and way of life of the Sámi people.

1877 – Francisco Contreras, Chilean writer and poet.

1882 – Vaman Malhar Joshi, Indian Marathi-language writer, editor, and teacher who was imprisoned at hard labor for three years for publishing articles suggesting the overthrow of English rule.

1887 – Anna Margolin (pen name of Rosa Harning Lebensboym), Belarusian-born Jewish Russian and American poet and journalist who wrote in Yiddish; one reviewer described her work as “sensual, jarring, plainspoken, and hard, the record of a soul in direct contact with the streets of 1920s New York.”

1894 – Teresa Deevy, award-winning Irish dramatist and short-story writer who went deaf at the age of 19 known for her works for theatre, she was also a short story writer, and a writer for radio, an impressive achievement, in that she had already become deaf before radio was popular in Ireland. Her work was heavily influenced by her feminism and her Irish Nationalism.

1895 – Concha Meléndez, award-winning Puerto Rican educator, poet, and writer who was the first woman to be accepted into the Puerto Rican Academy of Languages; she went to graduate school in Mexico, where she became the first woman in the history of Mexico to earn a Doctorate in Philosophy and Letters.

1895 – Ito Noe, Japanese author, social critic, feminist, and anarchist who was the editor-in-chief of the feminist magazine Seito; she drew praise from critics by being able to weave her personal and political ideas into her writings, but her criticism of the government made her a target, and in the chaos immediately following the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923, military police arrested her, strangled her to death, and threw her body into an abandoned well. She was 28 years old.

1895 – Davíð Stefánsson, Icelandic poet, novelist, playwright, and librarian.

1904 – R.P. Blackmur (Richard Palmer Blackmur), influential U.S. poet, editor, literary critic, and university teacher.

1905 – Wanda Wasilewska, Polish writer, screenwriter, politician, and journalist.

1907 – Allah Baksh Sarshar ‘Uqaili, Pakistani Sufi poet, writer, and editor who also served as mayor of the city of Karachi.

1908 – Vaikom Muhammad Basheer (commonly known as Beypore Sultan), award-winning Indian independence activist, freedom fighter, and writer of Malayalam novels and short stories; he was known for a down-to-earth style of writing that made him popular among literary critics as well as average readers.

1909 – Carlos Luis Fallas Sibaja (also known as Calufa, from the initial syllables of his first, middle and last name), Costa Rican author, labor leader, and political activist; some of his best known novels are Mamita Yunai, which denounced the harsh condition endured by workers for the United Fruit Company, and Marcos Ramírez, a humorous bildungsroman about the life of a Costa Rican boy, taken largely from his own life.

1911 – Camilla Cederna, Italian writer, editor, columnist, journalist, author, biographer, and magazine founder who is said to have introduced investigative journalism to the Italian news media; some sources give her year of birth as 1921.

1917 – Jón úr Vör, Icelandic poet who brought a Modernist approach into Icelandic poetry.

1918 – Elisa Mújica Velásquez, award-winning Colombian writer, novelist, essayist, children’s writer, journalist, literary critic, columnist, autobiographer, and short-story writer.

1923 – Judith Merril (pen name for Judith Josephine Grossman), U.S./Canadian science-fiction writer, editor, and political activist.

1925 – Eva Ibbotson, award-winning Austrian-born British author who wrote for adults, young adults, and children. Some critics have charged that Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling took “Platform 9 3/4” from “Platform 13” in Ibbotson’s book, The Secret of Platform 13 (both were located at King’s Cross station in London) but Ibbotson said she was flattered by the similarity, and that it was normal for writers to borrow from each other.

1927 – Robert Neil Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. physician and nonfiction author.

1930 – Mainza Chona, Zambian writer, lawyer, author, politician, and diplomat who was a two-time Prime Minister of Zambia.

1941 – Sue Williamson, award-winning British-born South African artist and writer whose work deals with themes of memory and identity.

1942 – Patricia Jean Rosier, New Zealand writer, editor, and feminist activist who came out as a lesbian and went on to play a leading role in the second wave of New Zealand’s Women’s Movement.

1942 – Osman Nuri Topbas, Turkish author and Sufi spiritual leader.

1942 – Cheon Yang-hee, award-winning South Korean poet, writer, and essayist; many of her early poems candidly reflect on the isolated self, while later poems focus on how the sorrows and frustrations of life influence the psyche.

1943 – Pratibha Ray, Indian academic, novelist, travel writer, and short-story writer.

1944 – Clémentine Faik Nzuji (also known as Clémentine Faïk-Nzuji Madiya), Congolese poet and writer who has been called “the first poet of real significance” among African writers who emerged in the late 1960s.

1946 – Gretel Ehrlich, U.S. travel writer, poet, novelist, and essayist.

1949 – Slamet Rahardjo Djarot, Academy Award-nominated Indonesian screenwriter, director, and actor.

1951 – Ljiljana Filipovic, award-winning Croatian author, essayist, translator, philosopher, and radio writer.

1952 – Louis Menand, U.S. writer, essayist, and academic, best known for his book The Metaphysical Club, an intellectual and cultural history of late 19th and early 20th century America.

1954 – Gergina Dvoretzka, award-winning Bulgarian journalist, writer, novelist, radio broadcaster, and poet who writes in Bulgarian and Polish.

1958 – Araceli Ardon, Mexican writer, editor, biographer, and columnist whose work focuses on cultural topics about the state of Querétaro.

1965 – Nauja Lynge, Greenlandic-Danish writer, lecturer, novelist, storyteller, and activist for Greenlandic rights.

1966 – Yesim Agaoglu, Turkish poet, photographer, and multidisciplinary artist; her themes include the relationship between language and art, gender and feminism issues, architectural elements, and politics.

1969 – M.K. Hobson, U.S. author known for her historical fantasy, which she describes as “bustlepunk”; she has been nominated for both the Nebula Award and the Pushcart Prize. She also writes under the pseudonym Mary Catherine Koroloff.

1980 – Raquel Ochoa, Portuguese author of novels, biographies, and travel literature.

1983 – Toni Stuart, South African poet, writer, nonfiction author, and workshop facilitator.

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