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Crosby, Frances Jane (1820–1915)

  1. Elisabeth Wolfe

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0372

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Wolfe, E. 2011. Crosby, Frances Jane (1820–1915). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


Fanny J. Crosby was born in Putnam County, New York, on March 24, 1820. An eye infection and a doctor's incompetence left her blind at six weeks of age, a fact for which she gave thanks throughout her life. In fact, her first poem, written when she was 8 years old, briefly treats her resolve to enjoy life in spite of her blindness. She studied at the New York Institution for the Blind from 1835 to 1843, during which time a Scottish phrenologist pronounced her a poet. After her graduation, she taught ancient history and English grammar and rhetoric at the same New York Institution until her marriage to blind music teacher and church organist, Alexander Van Alstyne, in 1858. Her first published poem, a eulogy on William Henry Harrison, appeared in the New York Herald in 1841. After placing other poems in other newspapers, Crosby published three volumes of poetry: The Blind Girl and Other Poems in 1844, Monterey and Other Poems in 1851, and A Wreath of Columbia's Flowers in 1858. She began writing popular lyrics and cantatas in 1851 in collaboration with George F. Root; she also appeared before Congress and went on the lecture circuit, often as an advocate for the blind. In 1864, at the urging of William Bradbury, she turned her attention to hymnody and went on to write as many as 9,000 hymns, published under scores of pseudonyms as well as her own name, in collaboration with such composers as Ira Sankey, William J. Kirkpatrick, and William Howard Doane. Her last volume of poetry, Bells at Evening and Other Poems, appeared in 1897, and she also published two memoirs in her later years, Fanny Crosby's Life-Story in 1903 and Memories of Eighty Years in 1906. Van Alstyne died in 1902, and Crosby died in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on February 12, 1915 and was buried there. Her tombstone bears the inscriptions “Aunt Fanny” and “She hath done all that she could,” and a nearby memorial includes the first lines of “Blessed Assurance.”


  • crosby, frances jane (1820–1915);
  • crosby, one of the best-known women in America;
  • who's who, her hymns gaining popularity;
  • “blessed assurance”;
  • “safe in the arms of Jesus” played at grant's funeral;
  • methodist church, prized crosby's hymns;
  • American hymnals, and her popular hymns;
  • dubbed “the methodist saint”