The True Story of Fanny Crosby, A Blind Woman With Extraordinary Musical Ability

Laura Wickham | September 22nd 2022

The following text is the full biography featured in the back of our new children’s book exploring the inspirational story of Fanny Crosby’s life. It is part of our Do Great Things for God series, a collection of beautifully illustrated biographies written to enthuse young children about the great things they can do for God. This book can be read to young children aged 4-5 and read by children aged 6 or older. Click here to download free biography worksheets for kids to fill in. 

24th March 1820

Frances Jane Crosby was born to John and Mercy Crosby in Putnam County, New York, U.S.

Many think that her blindness was the result of bad advice given by an unexperienced doctor when Fanny suffered from an infection as a baby.

When she was only six months old, her father died and Fanny was raised by her mother and her grandmother, Eunice, who would read her the Bible and answer her many questions.


At the age of eight, Fanny had written her first poem:

Oh, what a happy child I am, Although I cannot see!

I am resolved that in this world

Contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy

That other people don’t!

So weep or sigh because I’m blind, I cannot, nor I won’t!


Though Fanny loved learning, she couldn’t get the support she needed from her school back home so, at the age of 15, she entered what was then known as the New York Institution for the Blind. It was during those years that Fanny’s talent as a poet was discovered.


Fanny married Alexander Van Alstyne, a musician who, like her, was also blind. The two met in school, where Fanny now worked as a teacher. Alexander, or “Van”, as everyone called him, set some of Fanny’s hymns into music.


A famous hymn writer called William B. Bradbury asked Fanny to write hymns for him. That’s when Fanny’s busy career took off. Her name appeared in hymn books so many times, that she often signed her songs using made- up names like, “Ella Dale”, “Julia Stirling”, “Charles Burns” and more.

During her life, Fanny met many important people, from famous singers to the President of the United States, Grover Cleveland.

12th February 1915

Fanny died at the age of 95.

It’s hard to know exactly how many hymns she wrote in total, but many believe it’s around 9,000. Some of these have been translated in different languages and are still sung today.

Among her most famous hymns, there are,

“Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour”, “Blessed Assurance”,

“To God Be the Glory”, and “Safe in the Arms of Jesus”.

Laura Wickham

Laura Caputo-Wickham is a children’s author from Rome, now living in Kent with her husband, James, two young daughters and a cat. In her spare time, Laura is involved with her church’s toddler group and helps the children in her local school with their reading.

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