Frances Jane van Alstyne née Crosby , more commonly known as Fanny Crosby, was an American mission worker, poet, lyricist, and composer. A lifelong Methodist, she was one of the most prolific hymnists in history, writing over 8,000 hymns and gospel songs, with over 100 million copies printed. This is despite her being blind from shortly after birth. Crosby is also known for her preaching, teaching, and her rescue mission work. By the end of the 19th century, she was “a household name”.
Known as the “Queen of Gospel Song Writers”, and as the “Mother of modern congregational singing in America”, with most American hymnals containing her work, as “with the possible exception of Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, Crosby has generally been represented by the largest number of hymns of any writer of the twentieth century in nonliturgical hymnals”. Her gospel songs were “paradigmatic of all revival music”, and Ira Sankey attributed the success of the Moody and Sankey evangelical campaigns largely to Crosby’s hymns. Some of Crosby’s best-known songs include “Blessed Assurance”, “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour”, “Jesus Is Tenderly Calling You Home”, “Praise Him, Praise Him”, “Rescue the Perishing”, and “To God Be the Glory”. Because some publishers were hesitant to have so many hymns by one person in their hymnals, Crosby used nearly 200 different pseudonyms during her career.
Crosby wrote over 1,000 secular poems,and had four books of poetry published, as well as two best-selling autobiographies. Additionally, she co-wrote popular secular songs, as well as political and patriotic songs, and at least five cantatas on biblical and patriotic themes, including The Flower Queen, the first secular cantata by an American composer. Crosby was committed to Christian rescue missions, and was known for her public speaking.
Fanny Crosby was probably the most prolific hymnist in history. Though blinded by an incompetent doctor at six weeks of age, she wrote over 8,000 hymns. About her blindness, she said:
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.