Who Are Those Old Hymn Writers? Fanny Crosby

Years ago I read a biography about Fanny Crosby an American lyricist, but I remembered really only two things: she was blind, and there was some controversy over her choruses.

Doing a little research about her, I learned a lot more. First, born a hundred years after Isaac Watts, in 1820, she was far more prolific than he. Her songs and hymns numbered nearly 9000! Because the hymnbook publishers didn’t want a book filled by only one writer, they had her write under a number of pseudonyms besides writing under her own name.

Second, Fanny Crosby was married, even had a daughter who died in infancy (either from typhoid or SIDS). She and her husband eventually lived apart, and he died in 1902. She lived until 1915, when she was a few months shy of 95.

In her early career, she taught at the New York Institute of the Blind (which is where she met her husband—he was also blind). Later she spoke in many places, published her autobiography, collaborated on a number of hymnals, and spent much of her life as a rescue mission worker.

Crosby has become known as the Queen of Gospel Song Writers and reached a level of popularity in her lifetime that sets her apart from other lyricists. Her songs were largely simple, not lofty or grandiose. She intended them to be evangelistic in nature. “Many times literary critics would challenge the quality of her work, to which she would remind them that she was writing to be understood by the common people, not the elite.” (Paperless Hymnal)

She did not let her blindness be a hindrance. After her father died and while her mother was caring for his children from another marriage and Fanny, her grandmother took over a great deal of responsibility teaching her about the world and about the Bible. Fanny began to memorize Scripture, and eventually learned “the first five books of the Old Testament, then the first four of the New Testament, then Proverbs and many of the psalms.” (Ibid)

As it happened, her blindness was a result of a doctor’s malpractice. When she was two months old, this man treated the infant for an illness by applying a mustard poultice to her eyes. She was never bitter or angry toward this man. She is reported to have said when she was 85 that if she could have asked for something at birth it would be that she would be blind so that the first face she would see would be her Lord and Savior.

Regarding the controversy. Largely the issues revolved around her meager pay for the songs and an appeal that went public for help with her financial needs. She did not believe herself in need at all. In fact her publisher provided a stipend for her long after she was no more giving them new lyrics.

What I had recalled was some question about the depth of what she wrote, much the same as Isaac Watts faced, but if that was the case, that fact did not surface in my research today. Instead, it appears her poems and lyrics were popular, particularly when D. L. Moody and Ira Sankey included them in their crusades.

Of course, beyond her influence in her own day, Fanny Crosby’s legacy continues. Many of her hymns are well loved and are still sung wherever hymns are still sung. A list of her most well-known songs include:

“All the Way My Savior Leads Me”–1875, music by Robert Lowry
“Blessed Assurance”–1873, music by Phoebe Knapp
“He Hideth My Soul”–1890, music by William J. Kirkpatrick
“I Am Thine, O Lord (Draw Me Nearer)”–1875, music by W. Howard Doane
“Tell Me the Story of Jesus”–1880, music by John R. Sweney
“To God Be the Glory”–1875, music by W. Howard Doane

And so many others.

Here’s an all time favorite.

And here’s another.

Published in: on November 8, 2019 at 5:58 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you for educating me about Fanny Crosby!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think we can learn a lot from those saints who went before us. I’m glad you found this helpful, Greg.

      Becky

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating. And again very informative thank you for sharing ❣️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Locked out of my FB account due to a computer glitch. Will have to start a new account from scratch Rebecca. Ugh.

    I may send a new Friend request if I can ever stomach the task of setting rebuilding the whole stupid thing.

    May just kiss FB goodbye.

    Like


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