Ann Fisher (grammarian)

Ann Fisher (c. 9 December 1719 – 2 May 1778) was an English author and grammarian. A New Grammar, which appeared in 1745, made her the earliest published female author on modern English grammar, although Elizabeth Elstob had published a grammar of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) in 1715.


Fisher was born in Lorton, Cumberland, England, the daughter of Henry Fisher, yeoman, of Oldscale. Not much more is known of her life until her marriage to Thomas Slack, a publisher and bookseller from Newcastle upon Tyne, in December 1751. Together they had nine daughters (eight of whom survived) and conducted a number of businesses, including a ladies' school which Ann ran. Fisher had several books published by her husband. She died in 1778.[1]


Early copies of her highly popular works are rare. The earliest of A New Grammar: Being the Most Easy Guide to Speaking and Writing the English Language Properly and Correctly is a copy of the second, 1750 edition, published in Newcastle. It was followed by at least 30 other editions by 1800. (It was entitled A Practical New Grammar... from 1759 and refers to an earlier Child's Christian Education.)[1]

Her book took examples of poor English as a way to teach grammar. It also attacked the use of Latin rules in the vernacular, and was the first to suggest the he might be used for both sexes.[2] Her work was often plagiarized and quoted outright by many subsequent authors. Among those it influenced were the language reformers Thomas Sheridan and Thomas Spence. Her other, now rare, books included The New English Tutor (1762, but no surviving copy before 1764) and The Young Scholar's Delight, and New English Exercise Book (both 1770). No known copy of Fisher's Spelling Dictionary (1774) survives.[1]


  1. Virginia Blain, Patricia Clements and Isobel Grundy: The Feminist Companion to Literature in English (London: Batsford, 1990), p. 375–380.
  2. John, McWhorter. "The Royal They: Fighting against the tyranny of pronouns". The New Republic. Retrieved 10 December 2014.

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