May 16 Writer Birthdays

1718 – Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Italian writer, essayist, mathematician, theologian, philosopher, philanthropist, and humanitarian who was the first woman to write a mathematics handbook and the first woman appointed as a mathematics professor at a university. She wrote the first book discussing both differential and integral calculus, and also wrote extensively on the marriage between intellectual pursuit and mystical contemplation. The composer Maria Teresa Agnesi Pinottini was her sister.

1788 – Friedrich Rückert, German poet, writer, translator, and professor of Oriental languages.

1803 – Constantina Carolina Amalia “Amelie” von Strussenfelt, Swedish writer, poet, novelist, educator, painter, and women’s rights activist whose sister was the writer Ulrika von Strussenfelt.

1819 – Johann Voldemar Jannsen, Estonian journalist and poet who wrote the words of the patriotic song “Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm” (“My Fatherland, My Happiness and Joy”), which later became the national anthem of Estonia; As the leader of the choral society that organized the first nationwide Song Festival in Tartu in 1869, he played a crucial role in the Estonian National Awakening. His daughter was the poet Lydia Koidula.

1827 – Hedevig Rosing, Danish-born Norwegian author, educator, school founder, and suffragist who specialized in teaching deaf and mute students; she was the first woman to teach in Copenhagen’s public schools.

1884 – Eric P. Kelly, Newbery Medal-winning U.S. children’s author, journalist, and academic.

1885 – Aage Berntsen, Danish poet, writer, painter, doctor, and Olympic fencer.

1886 – Douglas Southall Freeman, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. historian, author, newspaper editor, radio commentator, and biographer of Robert E. Lee and George Washington.

1887 – Jakob van Hoddis (pen name of Hans Davidsohn; van Hoddis is an anagram of his surname), influential German Jewish poet whose most famous poem, “Weltende” (“End of the World”), is considered the preliminary Expressionist poem which inspired other poets to write in a similarly grotesque style; he is also seen as perhaps the only German predecessor of Surrealism (which did not exist as a movement in Germany). When the Nazis came into power, mental illness prevented him from being accepted as an immigrant when the rest of his family fled Germany; in 1942, he was transported to the Sobibór extermination camp with about 500 other patients and staff of the sanitorium where he was living. None survived.

1888 – Berthe-Sultana Bénichou-Aboulker, Algerian poet and playwright who wrote in French; her play La Kahena, reine berbière was the first work published by a Jewish woman in Algeria.

1890 – Gertrude Chandler Warner, U.S. author of children’s books; best known as the first author of the beloved Boxcar Children series. The books were criticized for encouraging child rebellion by depicting children with little parental supervision; her response was that children liked them for that very reason.

1893 – Ronald de Carvalho, Brazilian poet, writer, politician, and diplomat.

1898 – Desanka Maksimovic, Serbian poet, writer, professor, children’s author, and translator.

1901 – Lars Kornelius Edvard Berg, Norwegian novelist, short-story writer, playwright, and teacher who was influenced by ideas from Freud’s writings on psychoanalysis; his work was controversial for its candid treatment of sexual issues.

1905 – H.E. Bates, English novelist, journalist, essayist, and short-story writer.

1906 – Arturo Uslar Pietri, Venezuelan writer, poet, playwright, journalist, biographer, historian, literary critic, lawyer, politician, and diplomat.

1906 – Margret Rey, German and U.S. co-author and illustrator (with her husband H.A. Rey) of the Curious George children’s books.

1910 – Olga Berggolts, Russian poet and radio broadcaster

1910 – Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, U.S. educator, Transcendentalist writer, and translator who opened the first English-language kindergarten in the U.S.

1912 – Studs Terkel, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. author, historian, and broadcaster who is best remembered for his oral histories of common Americans.

1917 – Juan Rulfo (full name Juan Nepomuceno Carlos Pérez Rulfo Vizcaíno), Mexican novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter, and photographer, who is considered one of Latin America’s most esteemed novelists and short-story writers; he strongly influenced author Gabriel García Márquez.

1922 – Bi Pu (Zhou Sunshan), Chinese novelist, essayist, translator, newspaper editor, short-story writer, and broadcaster.

1929 – Adrienne Rich, National Book Award-winning U.S. poet, essayist, and feminist who has been called “one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century.”

1933 – Saifuddin Bohra, Pakistani author and political activist.

1934 – Robert Dallek, U.S. professor, historian, and biographer who specializes in American presidents.

1934 – Yusufali Kechery, Indian poet, film lyricist, film producer, and director who is considered one of the modern era’s leading writers of Malayalam poetry.

1934 – Leela Nambudiripad (pen name Sumangala), popular Indian writer and children’s author who writes in Malayalam.

1936 – Shirley Bear, Canadian Tobique First Nation author, artist, poet, herbalist, and activist for the rights of indigenous women; she is an original member of the Wabanaki language group of New Brunswick.

1938 – Monique Laederach, award-winning Swiss writer, poet, novelist, playwright, translator, and literary critic.

1944 – Ahmet Emin Atasoy, Bulgarian-born Turkish poet, author, teacher, and interpreter.

1946 – Laila Stien, Norwegian novelist, poet, children’s author, and translator.

1950 – Bruce Coville, prolific, award-winning U.S. author of children’s and young-adult novels.

1953 – Mitra Phukan, Indian author, children’s writer, biographer, short-story writer, columnist, reviewer, translator, and classical musician; she writes in English.

1953 – Fa Poonvoralak, award-winning Thai novelist, short-story writer, essayist, poet, and filmmaker.

1953 – Jónína Leósdóttir, Icelandic novelist, journalist, biographer, playwright, children’s author, and politician. She is married to the former Icelandic Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who was the first openly lesbian head of government in modern history; they were one of the first same-sex couples in Iceland to get married, and until 2015, Jónína was the only modern person to have been the same-sex spouse of a sitting head of government.

1954 – Rajiva Wijesinha, Sri Lankan writer and professor who writes in English and is distinguished for his political analysis as well as his creative and critical work.

1960 – Dele Momodu (born Ayòbámidélé Àbáyòmí Ojútelégàn Àjàní Momodu), award-winning Nigerian journalist, writer, columnist, publisher, and motivational speaker.

1963 – Tiziano Scarpa, award-winning Italian novelist, playwright, comics writer, and poet.

1981 – Ánna Báttler (pen name of Ánna Vasílievna Levashóva), Russian poet, writer, actress, and philanthropist; her book Wild Russian Mother (Дикая русская мать) had to be re-edited after the original manuscript was banned by authorities for its descriptions of the public attitude toward children and education, the moral decay of Russian society, and the corruption of state officials.

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