Frances “Fanny” Jane Crosby was an American mission worker, poet, lyricist, and composer.
In May of 1820, six-week-old Fanny Crosby caught a cold that caused her eyes to swell. A man masquerading as a doctor placed a mustard plaster poultice on her eyes, damaging her optic nerves. She was rendered completely blind. Six months later, her father died.
But instead of sinking into the darkness, Fanny wrote a poem that best captured her outlook on life as a nine-year-old:
O what a happy soul am I,
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t.
To weep and sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, and I won’t.
Fanny was raised by her mother and grandmother. Both strong women of the faith, they taught her how to memorize long passages of Scripture. When she turned 10, Fanny worked on memorizing five chapters of the Bible every week. By age 15, she had memorized the four Gospels, the Pentateuch, Proverbs, Song of Songs, and many of the Psalms.
That same year, Fanny received a scholarship for the New York Institution for the Blind. She studied there for ten years, becoming proficient in several musical instruments, before continuing on for many years at the school teaching English and History.
After graduating from the institute, Fanny traveled to Washington, D.C. to lobby for support of education for the blind. She became the first woman to address the United States Senate when she advocated her cause. She became acquainted with all the presidents of her lifetime, especially Grover Cleveland who once served as secretary for the Institute of the Blind.
At age 60, Fanny renewed her commitment to serve the poor. “Aunty Fanny,” as she became known, spent the next thirty years ministering at several inner city rescue missions. She counseled everyone she could in the Word despite age, race, or economic status.
Fanny is best known for writing more hymns than anyone else in history, almost 9,000 in total, including “Blesses Assurance,” “Redeemed,” “To God Be The Glory,” “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross,” and “Close to Thee.” Publishers worried about having so many hymns written by a single person in their hymnals, so Fanny used around 20 different pseudonyms at their request. She also published multiple books of poetry and two autobiographies.
Fanny once said, “I never undertake a hymn without first asking the good Lord to be my inspiration.” She could write six or seven hymns a day, composing them entirely in her mind before getting the opportunity to dictate them to someone who could write them down. Her work was often criticized for being too sentimental and focusing too much on the human experience. Today, her hymns are world-renown as classic hymns of the faith.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21
Fanny’s lack of vision didn’t keep her from living life to the fullest. For her, to live was Christ and to die was gain (Philippians 1:21). Frequently, we face struggles that can turn our eyes away from Christ. What helps keep you focused on our Savior during these times so you can live a joyful life to the fullest? Please share in the comments below!