Feature Writer John Christie – Fanny Crosby: Early 20th Century Poet and Inspiration

Fanny Crosby was an American hymn writer and poet, and during her lifetime, she wrote over 9,000 hymns.  She also entered the NY Institute at the age of 15. She then taught English and history from 1847 to 1858. As a teacher and pupil, she spent 35 years at the school. Her first book of poems was published in 1844 and was titled The Blind Girl and Other Poems.

In 1858, she published a book called A Wreath of Columbia’s Flowers. This is a book of secular stories and poems. Her last book, Memories of 80 years, was published in 1906.  Crosby was considered to be the greatest hymn writer in America. She was commonly referred to in New York as the “Hymn Queen.”

Although blinded by an illness at just six weeks old, she never became bitter. One time a preacher sympathetically remarked, “I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when He showered so many other gifts upon you.” She replied quickly, “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I should be born blind?” “Why?” asked the surprised clergyman. “Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!”

One of Miss Crosby’s hymns was so personal that for years she kept it to herself. Kenneth Osbeck, author of several books on hymnology, says its revelation to the public came about this way.  One day at the Bible conference in Northfield, Massachusetts, Miss Crosby was asked by D.L. Moody to give a personal testimony. At first she hesitated, then quietly rose and said, ‘There is one hymn I have written which has never been published. I call it my soul’s poem. Sometimes when I am troubled, I repeat it to myself, for it brings comfort to my heart.” She then recited while many wept:

Someday the silver cord will break,
and I no more as now shall sing;
but oh, the joy when I shall wake
within the palace of the King!
And I shall see Him face to face,
and tell the story–saved by grace!

At the age of 95 Fanny Crosby passed on and on her grave in Bridgeport, Conn., there is a simple little headstone with the name “Aunt Fanny,” and these words:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine.

Miss Crosby made herself a success when the odds were stacked against her. For example, there was no mobility training or rehabilitation training at the end of the 19th and early 20th century when she was alive. At that time, you had to find someone to guide you to places that you wanted to go to. You had to either go by train or an early model car. However, she had the gift to sing and write and she capitalized on these gifts. The best part was that, without questioning, the public gave her a chance.

Since then, blind musicians have become very successful, such as Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. It just shows that if you do have a lot of talent and knock on doors loud enough, the public will begin to listen. Maybe we blind folks should take a lesson from Miss Crosby’s life experiences and really get out there and start knocking on doors. The blindness agencies that train us should also knock on doors and train the public on what blindness is all about. Maybe by doing this, the unfortunate state of unemployment in the blind community could be turned around. At least it would be a start.

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