Her Heart Can See

Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915) was a blind poet whose fame rests primarily on texts that she composed for many popular hymns such as Blessed Assurance (1873). Author Edith L. Blumhofer chronicles Fanny Crosby's life from her childhood in New England through her extended education at the New York Institution for the Blind and her religious work as a hymn writer and social service activist.

Because the primary sources are spotty and often unreliable, Blumhofer chooses to approach Her Heart Can See: The Life and Hymns of Fanny J. Crosby by situating Crosby's life within its historical context. Crosby's life spanned most of the nineteenth century, and she exemplified many of the major currents in the development of an evangelical Protestant religious tradition in America. Much of the book details the establishment of religious institutions, both churches and Sunday schools, the growing place of music, music education, and hymns within this Protestant religious culture, the lucrative business of publishing hymns, and the attention to social welfare as an integral part of evangelical Protestantism.

Blumhofer devotes several chapters to analysis of the hymns in the context of American religion. She places Crosby's work within the orbit of other hymn writers and publishers with whom Fanny Crosby collaborated. Blumhofer also studies the hymn texts from the standpoint of their religious message and how Fanny Crosby's verses articulated the beliefs of this American Protestant evangelical movement. Indeed, because Fanny Crosby's hymns still resonate over a century later, this biography makes an important contribution to an understanding of the formative historical roots of evangelical Protestantism in America.