The name Frances Jane van Alystyne is probably familiar to but a few, but the name by which she is most commonly know, Fanny Crosby, is no doubt familiar to many people throughout the world. Fanny Crosby was a prolific writer of poems and hymns who made her mark in her life even though she became blind at about six weeks of age.
Crosby was born Frances Jane Crosby March 24, 1820 in South East, Putnam County, New York. In 1858 she married her pupil, the blind musician, Alexander van Alystyne, but she continues to be known as Fanny Crosby in the annals of hymnology.
Crosby was educated at the New York City School for the Blind. After graduation she taught English Grammar, Rhetoric and Roman and American history for eleven years at her Alma Mater. During the 1850s she began writing verse.
Beginning in the 1860s she began to write texts for gospel songs. Being a devout Christian, Crosby was able to convey her faith and hope into a huge volume of hymns that are classics today.
Take the hymns written by Fanny Crosby from most of the traditional hymnbooks and there would be a huge void. She is said to have written about 6,000 hymns during her career. She also used more than 200 pseudonyms in signing her hymns.
Although I love all her hymns that I’m aware of, there are two that really stand out in my mind: “All the way my Savior leads me,” and “Though your sins be as scarlet.” I took from the shelf one of my hymnals titled Great Songs of the Church and scanned through it. A quick count of the pages showed there were approximately 25 hymns written by Fanny Crosby in that hymnal.
My guess is that most folks who attend church are aware of the name Fanny Crosby and the immense amount of hymns she produced during her lifetime. Through her hymns, she has been a great inspiration to many.
Concerning her blindness, she is quoted as saying:
“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. If I had a choice, I would still choose to remain blind….for when I die, the first face I will ever see will be the face of my blessed Savior.”
Fanny Crosby died at Bridgeport, Connecticut, on February 12, 1915.
I found a short entry about Fanny Crosby in my Encyclopedia Britannica. Being recognized by that reference set of books is no small thing. It is just one indication, I think, of just how famous she was in her time and the legacy of hymns she left after her passing.