Deconstructing female conventions: Ann Fisher
Maria E. Rodriguez-Gil, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Ann Fisher, daughter of a yeoman, decided not to follow conventions. She led her life in the public sphere, not happy with the prevailing idea that women should be educated for a life at home. Though she was a devoted wife and mother, she got married aged thirty-two, she became a prosperous business woman, both before and after her marriage, and a prolific author of educational books. As a business woman, she ran her own ladies' school for young ladies, and, together with her husband, a shop, a printing office and a local paper, The Newcastle Chronicle. But she also stood out in the world of belles letters, being the author of several books, namely a grammar of the English language, an instructor, a spelling book, an exercise book, a dictionary of the English language, and a compendium of geography and astronomy.

This unconventional lifestyle also affected her literary work, which is obvious in her most popular book, A New Grammar, with Exercises of Bad English (1745?). Fisher wrote an English grammar based on the nature and observation of her mother tongue, becoming thus a strong detractor of making English grammar fit the Latin pattern, a common practice still in the eighteenth century. Besides, this grammarian adopted a vernacular terminology for the description of the grammatical terms, divided the grammatical categories into four parts, combined both prescriptive and descriptive approaches to language analysis, and attacked Latinate grammars vehemently. This new approach to English grammar was indeed welcome by contemporary readers, since her grammar saw almost forty editions and reprints, and it reached other markets, such as London and Leeds.