Fanny Crosby was born on March 24, 1820, two hundred years ago and just two hundred years before the coronavirus began to sweep the population of planet Earth. In a similar way Fanny Crosby’s hymns spread throughout the world but in this case the results were good; bringing God’s message through music and the singing of hymns in churches around the globe in the mid 1800’s until the present. Many of her over 9000 hymns are still popular today, her most famous hymn, being Blessed Assurance

Fanny Crosby was born in the Hudson River/West Point area of New York State, about fifty miles north of New York City. She became blind accidently while an infant, which left her with an uncanny sense of memory. At the age of fifteen, Fanny went to New York City to receive an education. This was a new venture, not only for Fanny, but for the school system to educate blind children. Due to her extraordinary ability to retain information, Fanny became a model student, and eventually a teacher, a powerful speaker, and a musician who today would be called a promoter and fund raiser extraordinaire for the New York Institute for the Blind.

Although Fanny attended school in her home area for a short time, she was not able to learn in the same way that other students could. Therefore she was taught at home by her grandmother, a devout Christian, who was able to transform learning into the special needs that Fanny had. Because Fanny was blind her other senses were enhanced and she was able to memorize most of the Bible at an early age. This helped her years later during her hymn writing career when she could dictate three hymns to three different secretaries simultaneously.
Fanny’s Christian life developed slowly over the years. She never blamed God or even the doctor who caused her blindness, but as a child and throughout her life, she felt she was blessed by her disability. The first poem she wrote signifies her feelings of pride and lack of helplessness.

When the cholera epidemic surfaced in 1848, Fanny became a volunteer care giver in New York City, nursing those who had contracted this dreadful disease and offering comfort to the dying. It was after this dedicated experience that she became involved in the Christian revivals that people were attracted to, that she found peace with God and asked Christ to take charge of her life. Her fame spread around the world as people connected to the messages of her hymns, and their lives were transformed by Jesus.

Fanny married Alexander Van Alstine in 1858 and they had one child, a daughter who died in infancy. A sad and difficult time, this prompted Fanny to write the words to a beautiful hymn, Safe In the Arms of Jesus. She was sought by famous hymn book publishers in New York City as she became known as a popular lyricist. Since she had memorized the Bible as a child she was able to write in her mind and remember her hymns with ease. Her words were transcribed to secretaries in future days. Hymnals were very popular in that day. Through the thousands of hymns that Fanny wrote under her own name and several pseudonyms the hymn books were filled with Fanny’s hymns. Publishers did not want entire hymnbooks to be printed with the majority of hymns written by the same person hence, Fanny used about twenty different names. Many musicians composed the music and came to Fanny for the words and her beautiful and meaningful poetic Christian messages of salvation, love of Jesus, and hope.
Many of her hymns were written at night, sometimes through dreams but always through God speaking to her, often by means of an experience of blessing or helping others. She wrote Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour the same night she had met a young man at a church service and spoke to him when he approached her. He had gone astray and wanted to meet his mother in Heaven. He exclaimed to Fanny at the end the service following their conversation, “Now I can meet my mother in Heaven”.

Fanny was concerned for the poor and destitute, giving much of her daytime and most of the meager money she received for writing hymns, to Mission work. From these experiences she wrote the hymn Rescue the Perishing. Fanny’s ultimate goal focused on bringing people to Christ. She identified with the good work and objects of The King’s Daughters and Sons. Fanny was a member and had met our Founder, Margaret Bottome.

Fanny died in 1915 at 95 years of age. She always said that the first person she would ever see would be Jesus in Heaven and that she was patiently looking forward to this meeting.

You might like to view this interesting video, , a biography about Fanny Crosby on Youtube.

Phoebe McLelland
International Parliamentarian

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