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Celebrating Outstanding Christian Women in American History: Frances Jane Crosby

Frances Crosby 1820 – 1915

A prolific writer who penned thousands of hymns and several volumes of poetry all for the glory of God.

Frances Jane Crosby, better known as Fanny Crosby, was born in the village of Brewster, New York. She was the only child born to John and Mercy Crosby. At six weeks of age she became blinded when she contracted a cold that affected her eyes. Whether the condition was congenital or due to the damaging effects of mustard poultice treatments prescribed by an unlicensed doctor is unknown, but after she recovered from her sickness it was clear that she would be blinded for life. Her father died only six months later and her mother, a loving, hardworking Christian woman, along with her grandmother Eunice Paddock Crosby did their best to raise Fanny to love the Lord and to do her best in all things.

It was apparent that what Fanny lacked in physical sight she exceeded in spiritual sight. Here are just a few amazing highlights from her life.

  • At the age of 8, she wrote her first poem about her blindness in which she refused to feel sorry for herself.

  1. She was passionate about memorizing the Bible and it is said that as a child she could recite the Genesis through Deuteronomy, The Gospels, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, the book of Ruth, and many psalms chapter and verse.

  2. She published four books of poetry and two autobiographies.

  3. She played the harp, piano, guitar, and other instruments.

  4. She was a teacher at the New York Institute for the Blind for 11 years.

  5. She married Alexander van Alstine, an accomplished organist that wrote the music for many of her hymns.

  6. In her lifetime she wrote over 1,000 poems, and between 8,000 and 9,000 hymns although they were not all published.

  7. She wrote the famous hymns, “Blessed Assurance,” “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” “To God be the Glory,” “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross,” “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” "I Am Thine, O Lord," and many, many more.

  8. The hymn, “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” was written after the death of her only daughter shortly after her birth.

  9. She wrote lyrics for and with other great musicians such as William Doane, George Root, and William B. Bradbury.

  10. It is said that some of her hymns had to be published under another name or else the hymn books would be filled with her name more than any other. She wrote under least 140 pseudonyms.

  11. Fanny desired to see a million people saved through her hymns and she prayed that they would bring men and women to Christ. She kept record of every time someone reportedly came to Christ through her music.

  12. Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey, famous Christian evangelists, used her hymns during their crusades.

  13. At the age 23 she spoke before a joint session of Congress on behalf of the blind. She befriended presidents and many other executive members of government. She knew President Grover Cleveland well who served as the 22nd and 24th U.S. president. They met when he served as the secretary for the Institute for the blind before his election.

She was often pitied by others because she was blinded so early in life. Her frequent response to this was, “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind? Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”

As an eight-year-old child she wrote,

“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!”

In fact, she continued writing all the way up until her death at ninety-four years old. Her last lines of poetry read, “You will reach the river brink, some sweet day, by and by.”

What an amazing testimony of a life poured out for God! Thank you, Fanny Crosby, to all that you contributed to the Kingdom of God and for your testimony of steadfastness in adversity. What a beautiful legacy! We celebrate you!

Seems to good to be true? Interested in Reading More?

Fanny Crosby: Prolific and blind hymn writer. Christianity Today. Retrieved from:

Reese, Ed, n.d., The life and ministry of Frances jane Crosby Truthful Words/ Biographies. retrieved from:

Here you will find many of the pseudonyms Frances Crosby wrote under as well as the lyrics to over 700 of her hymns.

Morgan, Robert J (2010), 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart, B&H, p. 38.

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