What do Ruth Harmon, Florence Booth, Emily Prentiss, and Robert Bruce have in common? They are all pen names for one of the most prolific hymnists the world has ever known — Fanny Crosby, who was born on March 24, 1820. Thousands of hymns ranging from Blessed Assurance to Safe in the Arms of Jesus bear her name or one of her pseudonyms.
By the world’s standards, Fanny Crosby had a very unhappy childhood. A quack doctor scarred her eyes with hot mustard plasters, blinding her at the age of six weeks. Her father died when she was only one year old. Her mother had to seek work as a maid, leaving Fanny with her grandmother for training and companionship. But these trials proved to be helps to Fanny rather than hindrances. Her grandmother was a godly woman, who went to great pains to bring her young charge to Jesus. The landlady also exerted a beneficial influence, helping Fanny memorize as many as five chapters of the Bible a week. And as for blindness, Fanny considered it to be one of her greatest blessings because it kept her focused on God instead of on the things of the world.
Fanny proved to have a genius for poetry at the early age of eight and in her twenties began earning considerable royalties on her popular songs. Hymn-writing did not begin until she made a definite commitment to serve the Lord some ten years later. Then joy began to bubble up inside her until by the time she was forty-three or forty-four it had to come out. Before long she had a contract to write three hymns a week for Sunday school publications. Fanny more than exceeded the requirements, however, often writing lyrics for six or seven hymns every day! Her work soon caught the attention of hymnal publishers, but they were a little reluctant to print a book filled primarily with the hymns of one person; hence the extensive use of pseudonyms.
Because she was blind, Fanny always composed her hymns in her head and dictated them to others when they were finished. This method of working often meant that she was carrying ten or so hymns in her head at a time. It’s little wonder that people marveled at her memory. But not even Fanny could remember all of the hymns she wrote. At church services she sometimes heard a hymn she liked and asked who wrote it, only to find out that it was one of her own.
It is impossible to know for certain how many hymns Fanny Crosby wrote during her lifetime. The best estimate is over 9,000. Most are no longer popular, but at the time they were written they inspired many to share Fanny’s joy and wonder over God’s love. Then on February 12, 1915, Fanny’s eyes were opened, and the first face she saw was that of her Savior.
Fanny Crosby: Prolific and Blind Hymn Writer
Brief biography and timeline from Christianity Today.
Fanny Crosby: The Joy of the Lord was Her Strength
Biographical information along with 5 joyful lessons from her life.
Frances Jane Crosby
Compilation of her hymns – lyrics and midi. Also note the list of pseudonyms.
Memories of Eighty Years by Fanny Crosby
Autobiography (free download).
Hymn Studies: “To God Be The Glory”
A study of one of Fanny Crosby’s well-known hymns.
Fanny Crosby Notebooking Pages
3-pages including biography sheet, notebooking page and room to record a few of the hymns she composed.
Hymn Study Notebooking Pages
Free 28-page .pdf download that will work with any hymn study. Very nice!