Fanny Crosby was born in a one-room cottage in New York. Her father died when she was a year old, leaving her mother and grandmother to raise her.
Though she was born seeing the world around her, at six weeks old she lost her sight. The family physician was away, and a country doctor was called in to treat a slight cold in her eyes. He prescribed mustard poultices. By the time Fanny’s mother found out that he was not qualified to practice medicine, he had disappeared.
At five years old Fanny learned that the damage was irreversible. Being blind didn’t upset her, but not being able to go to school did. “My ambition was boundless and my desires were intent to live for some great purpose in the world and to make for myself a name that should endure.”
How would she achieve her purpose without an education?
Fanny’s grandmother became the girl’s eyes, describing the beauty of the world. She also introduced her granddaughter to the Bible. It is said that, as a child, Fanny could repeat from memory the Pentateuch, the book of Ruth, the book of Proverbs, Song of Solomon, much of the New Testament, and many of the Psalms.
At age fifteen Fanny’s mother told her that she would attend The Institution for the Blind in New York City. “O thank God,” Fanny cried joyfully, “He has answered my prayer, just as I knew he would.” Fanny was a student there for twelve years, and taught there for eleven more years.
Poetry flowed from Fanny’s mind and heart. Early in her school career, however, the principal told her that she needed to stop distracting herself with making rhymes. Although she left his office in tears, she couldn’t give up her natural gift. “I seem to have been led, little by little, toward my work; and I believe that the same fact will appear in the life of anyone who will cultivate such powers as God has given him, and then go on, bravely, quietly, but persistently, doing such work as comes to his hands.”
Fannie allowed God to lead her to her work, and her trust was rewarded. She became a prolific poet, who wrote up to seven hymns a day:
Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry: While on others
Thou art smiling, Do not pass me by.
Let me at a throne of mercy Find a sweet relief;
Kneeling there in deep contrition, Help my unbelief.
The Lord did not pass Frances Jane Crosby by. Inspired by God’s guiding light, she died with over 8,000 hymns to her credit.
Frances Jane, from The Hymns and Carols of Christmas, http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/Biographies/Fanny_Crosby.html, p 13
Frances Jane, from The Hymns and Carols of Christmas, http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/Biographies/Fanny_Crosby.html, p 17