Fanny Crosby : biography
While Crosby will probably always be best known for her hymns, she wanted to be seen primarily as a rescue mission worker. According to Keith Schwanz: "At the end of her life, Fanny’s concept of her vocation was not that of a celebrated gospel songwriter, but that of a city mission worker. In an interview that was published in the March 24, 1908, issue of the New Haven Register, Fanny said that her chief occupation was working in missions. Although, according to Schwanz: "Many of Fanny’s hymns emerged from her involvement in the city missions", including "More Like Jesus" (1867); "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour" (1868);Blumhofer (2005), p. 245. and "Rescue the Perishing" (1869), which became the "theme song of the home missions movement",Hobbs (1997), p. 100. and was "perhaps the most popular city mission song", with its "wedding of personal piety and compassion for humanity".Rodney L. Reed, "Worship, Relevance, and the Preferential Option for the Poor in the Holiness Movement", Wesleyan Theological Journal 32:2 (Fall 1997):98, http://wesley.nnu.edu/fileadmin/imported_site/wesleyjournal/1997-wtj-32-2.pdf Crosby celebrated the rescue mission movement in her 1895 hymn, "The Rescue Band".Robert Shuster, "’Lord, When Did We See You A Stranger’: Scenes of City Rescue Work from the BGC Archives", Talk at the Barrows Auditorium in the Billy Graham Center, Wheaton, IUllinois (May 8, 1999), http://www.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/treasure/tr99/rescuetalka.htmFor lyrics on original manuscript, see Fanny Crosby, "The Rescue Band" (December 27, 1895), http://www.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/treasure/tr99/035.jpg
As Crosby had lived for decades in such areas of New York City as Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan, The Bowery, and The Tenderloin, she was aware of the great needs of immigrants and the urban poor, and was passionate to help those around her through urban rescue missions and other compassionate ministry organizations. Crosby indicated "from the time I received my first check for my poems, I made up my mind to open my hand wide to those who needed assistance".Burger (1997), p. 89. Throughout her life, Crosby was described as having "a horror of wealth", never set prices to speak, often refused honoraria, and "what little she did accept she gave away almost as soon as she got it".Ruffin (1995), p. 182. After her marriage, Crosby "had other priorities and gave away anything that was not necessary to their daily survival". The Van Alstynes also organized concerts, with half the proceeds given to aid the poor.Neptune (2001), pp. 76-77. Throughout New York City, Crosby’s sympathies for the poor were well-known, but consisted primarily of indirect involvement by giving contributions from the sale of her poems, and by writing and sending poems for special occasions for these missions to the dispossessed, as well as sporadic visits to those missions.Blumhofer (2005), p. 285.
Among those Crosby supported was the American Female Guardian Society and Home for the Friendless (founded in 1834) at 29 East 29th Street,An Early Member of the Board of Managers of the A.F.G.S., Wrecks and Rescues, 2nd ed. (American Female Guardian Society, 1859). for whom she wrote a hymn in 1865 that was sung by some of the Home’s children:
- O, no, we are not friendless now,
- For God hath reared a home."American Female Guardian Society.; ANNUAL REPORT AND INTERESTING EXERCISE", The New York Times (May 8, 1865), http://www.nytimes.com/1865/05/08/news/american-female-guardian-society-annual-report-and-interesting-exercises.html
"More Like Jesus Would I Be", her first hymn written for Doane in June 1867, expressly for the sixth anniversary of the Howard Mission and Home for Little Wanderers,Blumhofer (2005), p. 217.Henry S. Burrage, "William H. Doane: 1832–", in Baptist Hymn Writers and Their Hymns (Portland, ME: Brown Thurston & Co., 1888), http://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/bdoane2.html a nondenominational mission at New Bowery, Manhattan.