Monday, March 3, 2008

Fannie Crosby

I thought I would do something different today and feature one of my favorite females of Christian History. Blind Hymn Writer Fannie Crosby! Although she was tragically blinded by human error, she never stopped writing songs and giving her all to do the Lord's work. I love her hymns. Some I have never heard but most I have heard or sang at church.

Francis Jane Crosby was born into a family of strong Puritan ancestry in New York on March 24, 1820.
. In May of 1820, when she was six weeks old, she caught a cold, and her eyes became slightly inflamed. The regular physician in Putnam County, New York, was out of town, and a man posing as a doctor gave her the wrong treatment. Within days, her eyesight was destroyed, and the man fled town in a panic.Grandma's guidance
One of the strongest influences in Fanny's childhood was her grandmother. An intelligent and patient woman, she took Fanny on nature walks, describing every bud and leaf in meticulous detail. This wise grandmother would not Fanny wallow in self-pity. She exposed her to great literature and poetry. Most importantly, she read her long passages from the Bible every day. She carefully explained the Bible to her, and she always emphasized the importance of prayer. Even with such attentive teaching, Fanny's thirst for knowledge was not satisfied; her mind was phenomenal. Before she was ten years old, she had memorized most of the New Testament and more than five books of the Old Testament. However, since schools at that time were not equipped to teach blind children, she was unable to receive a regular education. Fanny knelt with her grandmother beside her rocker and prayed: "Dear Lord, please show me how I can learn like other children." It wasn't long before her mother gave her the exciting news about an opportunity to attend the New York Institute for the Blind.

Fanny Crosby Prolific and blind hymn writer
"Oh, what a happy soul I am, Although I cannot see! I am resolved that in this world Contented I will be."
Francis Jane Crosby wrote more than 9,000 hymns, some of which are among the most popular in every Christian denomination. She wrote so many that she was forced to use pen names lest the hymnals be filled with her name above all others. And, for most people, the most remarkable thing about her was that she had done so in spite of her blindness.
"I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when he showered so many other gifts upon you," remarked one well-meaning preacher.
Samuel Mills leads Haystack Prayer Meeting
Alexander Campbell begins Restoration Movement
Elizabeth Fry organizes relief in New gate Prison
Fanny Crosby born
Fanny Crosby dies
First Christian radio broadcasts
Fanny Crosby responded at once, as she had heard such comments before. "Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind?" said the poet, who had been able to see only for her first six weeks of life. "Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior."
Blinded by a quack Born in Putnam County, New York, Crosby became ill within two months. Unfortunately, the family doctor was away, and another man—pretending to be a certified doctor—treated her by prescribing hot mustard poultices to be applied to her eyes. Her illness eventually relented, but the treatment left her blind. When the doctor was revealed to be a quack, he disappeared. A few months later, Crosby's father died. Her mother was forced to find work as a maid to support the family, and Fanny was mostly raised by her Christian grandmother.
Her love of poetry began early—her first verse, written at age 8, echoed her lifelong refusal to feel sorry for herself:
Oh, what a happy soul I am,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!
While she enjoyed her poetry, she zealously memorized the Bible. Memorizing five chapters a week, even as a child she could recite the Pentateuch, the Gospels, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and many psalms chapter and verse.
Her mother's hard work paid off. Shortly before her fifteenth birthday, Crosby was sent to the recently founded New York Institute for the Blind, which would be her home for 23 years: 12 as a student, 11 as a teacher. She initially indulged in her own poetry and was called upon to pen verses for various occasions. In time the principal asked her to avoid such "distractions" in favor of her general instruction. "We have no right to be vain in the presence of the Owner and Creator of all things," he said.
It was the work of a traveling phrenologist (one who studies the shape and irregularities of the skull for insights into character and mental capacity) that changed the school's mind and again ignited her passion. Though his study is now the ridicule of science, the phrenologist's words were to prove prophetic: "Here is a poetess. Give her every possible encouragement. Read the best books to her and teach her the finest that is in poetry. You will hear from this young lady some day."
Poetry for presidents It didn't take long. By age 23 Crosby was addressing Congress and making friendships with presidents. In fact, she knew all the chief executives of her lifetime, especially Grover Cleveland, who served as secretary for the Institute for the Blind before his election.
Another member of the institute, former pupil Alexander van Alstine, married Crosby in 1858. Considered one of New York's best organists, he wrote the music to many of Crosby's hymns. Crosby herself put music to only a few of hers, though she played harp, piano, guitar, and other instruments. More often, musicians came to her for lyrics. For example, one day musician William Doane dropped by her home for a surprise visit, begging her to put some words to a tune he had recently written and which he was to perform at an upcoming Sunday School convention. The only problem was that his train to the convention was leaving in 35 minutes. He sat at the piano and played the tune.
"Your music says, 'Safe in the Arms of Jesus,'" Crosby said, scribbling out the hymn's words immediately. "Read it on the train and hurry. You don't want to be late!" The hymn became one of Crosby's most famous.
Though she was under contract to submit three hymns a week to her publisher and often wrote six or seven a day (for a dollar or two each), many became incredibly popular. When Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey began to use them in their crusades, they received even more attention. Among them are "Blessed Assurance," "All the Way My Savior Leads Me," "To God Be the Glory," "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior," "Safe in the Arms of Jesus," "Rescue the Perishing," and "Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross."
She could write very complex hymns and compose music with a more classical structure (she could even improvise it), but she preferred to write simple, sentimental verses that could be used for evangelism. She continued to write her poetry up to her death, a month shy of her ninety-fifth birthday. "You will reach the river brink, some sweet day, bye and bye," was her last stanza.

Fanny died peacefully in her home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on February 12, 1915. For the first time, she could see, and best of all, she could see her savior, as she wrote, FACE TO FACE. The crowds at her funeral were a testimony to the wide-spread influence she had for the Lord. These words from one of her final hymns express the foremost hope of her life: "And I shall see Him face to face and tell the story - saved by grace."
What happened when Fanny died? Perhaps one of her later hymns tells it best:
When my lifework is ended and I cross the swelling tide,When the bright and glorious morning I shall see, I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,And His smile will be the first to welcome me.
I shall know Him, I shall know Him,And redeemed by His side I shall stand! I shall know Him, I shall know Him By the print of the nails in His hand.
You will find this quote on Fanny’s grave in Bridgeport, Connecticut….”SHE HATH DONE WHAT SHE COULD..”
Buried close by is P.T. Barnum, the Circus –Tycoon, who laid up treasures on earth while Fanny’s treasures were laid up in heaven.

WOW What a testimony.What a wonderful selfless woman. She was someone I want my teenage daughters to study as a roll model! Be Blessed! Lisa


Brandy said...

Wow that is amazing. Everything that God does he does for a reason. Do you think that if she had her sight she would have been such a powerful woman of God?

Lisa said...

It is hard to say. I believe that God uses people in different ways and takes them through different trials such as blindness in their life to get them just where they need to be in their Christian life. God Bless you. Lisa


I have always loved Fanny Crosby. I love all the songs that she wrote. Thank you for sharing this with us. Have a great day for the Lord. connie from Texas

Betty said...

Lisa, I found your post on Fanny Crosby to be so interesting. I guess I have seen her name at the top of hymns, but I didn't know any history about her. It's amazing she was blind but still could write like this.

Thanks for visiting me today and leaving a comment.

Diane J. said...

Hi Lisa, and thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog. :-)

Fanny J. Crosby is one of my favorite hymn writers. Most Sundays we sing at least one of her songs, and many times several. What a powerful witness for God her life was/is!

Have a great Tuesday. ;o)



Mississippi Songbird said...

She was a wonderful woman.Thank you for sharing this history.. I hope you have had a wonderful day. It turned cold, even snowed just a little here. Have a wonderful Wednesday.
Bunches of hugs!

Hope said...

Hi Lisa,
I got excited when I saw Fannie Crosby at the top. I love her hymns and I cried when I read "I Shall Know Him". I had a great uncle who was blind and stayed with my family the last 3 years of his life. He use to sing that song in churches wherever he went. He would stand in the pew and sing from there and he always looked toward heaven when he sang.
He was a wonderful, kind man and a great inspiration to me in my young life.

Thank you for posting that and thank you for your prayers for me.

Love and Hugs,