Frances (Fanny) Jane Crosby
Frances Jane Crosby (1820–1915), more commonly known as Fanny Crosby, was an American lyricist best known for her Protestant Christian hymns. A lifelong Methodist, she was one of the most prolific hymnists in history, writing more than 8,000 despite being blind since infancy. Also known for her public speaking, during her lifetime Fanny Crosby was one of the best-known women in the United States.
Fanny Crosby was born in New York to poor parents, John and Mercy Crosby. At six weeks of age, she caught a cold and developed inflammation of the eyes. The family physician was not available, and a less-knowledgeable "physician" recommended mustard plasters as treatment, which blinded her.
Her father died when she was one-year old, so she was raised by her mother and grandmother. These women grounded Crosby in Protestant Christian principles, helping her memorize long passages from the Bible. Fanny became an active member of the John Street Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City.
At age 15, she enrolled in the New York Institute for the Blind (now the New York Institute for Special Education). She remained there for seven years, during which time she learned to play the piano and guitar and to sing. From 1847 to 1858, Crosby joined the faculty at the New York school, teaching English and History. She married Alexander Van Alstyne, a blind musician and fellow teacher, in 1858. At his insistence, she kept her maiden name. They had one daughter, Francis, who died while a baby. Alexander died in 1902.
Crosby did not spend her life in bitterness and defeat, but instead dedicated her life to Christ. At the age of eight she wrote these verses about her blindness:
Although I cannot see;
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy,
She later remarked: "It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank Him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow, I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me."She also once said, "When I get to Heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior."
A Few of Fanny Crosby's Best-Known Poems & Hymns