Fanny Crosby


Fanny Crosby : biography

March 24, 1820 – February 12, 1915

At six weeks old, Crosby caught a cold and developed inflammation of the eyes. Mustard poultices were applied to treat the discharges. According to Crosby, this procedure damaged her optic nerves and blinded her. Many physicians today, however, "suggest it is much more likely that her blindness was congenital",Blumhofer (2005), p. 15. and that "at such an early age her sightless condition may well have escaped her parents"."Fanny Crosby: The Early Years", Leben: A Journal of Reformation Life 4:3 (July–September 2008) In 1820 John Crosby died, so Crosby was raised by her mother and maternal grandmother, Eunice Paddock Crosby (born about 1778; died about 1831).Edith L. Blumhofer, Her Heart Can See: The Hymns and Life of Fanny Crosby (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2005):14,27. These women grounded Crosby in Protestant Christian principles, helping her, for example, memorize long passages from the Bible. Crosby became an active member of the John Street Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City.

When Crosby was aged three, the family moved to North Salem, New York, where Eunice had been raised.Blumhofer (2005), p . 13. In April 1825 Crosby was examined by Valentine Mott, who Neptune has called "America’s premier surgeon". He concluded that Crosby’s condition was inoperable and that her blindness was permanent.

At the age of eight Crosby wrote her first poem, which described her condition. Crosby later remarked: "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.""Fanny Crosby; America’s Hymn Queen", Glimpses of Christian History 198, and Crosby was then raised by her mother and maternal grandmother, Eunice.Blumhofer (2005), pp. 14, 27. Crosby also once said, "when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior". When asked about her blindness, Crosby was reported as saying that "had it not been for her affliction she might not have so good an education or have so great an influence, and certainly not so fine a memory".Annie Isabel Willis, "A Blind Hymn Writer", Daily True American (August 1, 1889):2.

In 1828, Mercy and Crosby moved to the home of a Mrs. Hawley in Ridgefield, Connecticut.Neptune (2001), p. 242. While residing in Ridgefield, they attended the Presbyterian church on the Village Green.Crosby (1906), p. 6. Crosby’s mother and grandmother grounded Crosby in Protestant Christian principles, helping her, for example, memorize long passages from the Bible. Historian Edith L. Blumhofer described the Crosby home environment as sustained by "an abiding Christian faith".Blumhofer (2005), p. 16. With the encouragement of her grandmother, and later Mrs. Hawley, from the age of ten, Crosby had memorized five chapters of the Bible each week, until by the age of fifteen Crosby had memorized the four gospels, the Pentateuch, the Book of Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms., Severance, Diane; Glimpses of Christian History 30 From 1832, a music teacher came to Ridgefield twice a week to give singing lessons to Crosby and some of the other children.Crosby (1906), p. 8. Around the same time, Crosby attended her first Methodist church services at the Methodist Episcopal Church where she was delighted by their hymns.Blumhofer (2005), p. 25.

In 1835, just before her 15th birthday, Crosby enrolled at the New York Institution for the Blind (NYIB),Blumhofer (2005), p. 30. a state-financed school. She remained there for eight years as a student, and another two years as a graduate pupil,Blumhofer (2005), p. 71. during which she learned to play the piano, organ, harp, and guitar, and became a good soprano singer. While Crosby was studying at NYIB, in 1838 her mother Mercy Crosby remarried and the couple had three children together.Neptune (2001), p. 8. Mercy’s husband abandoned her in 1844.Blumhofer (2005), pp. 118–121.