Amelia Bloomer vs. Fanny Crosby

Much to the relief of the entire Lent Madness global public, the Supreme Executive Committee has reconciled -- temporarily -- which means the Saintly Smackdown will proceed after Saturday's all-t00-real April 1st scare. Yes, there WILL BE a 2017 Golden Halo winner.

So let's get back to the holy business of saintly competition! Today, we continue with the final matchup of the Saintly Sixteen as Amelia Bloomer faces Fanny Crosby. To get to this round, Amelia dispatched Philipp Melanchthon while Fanny got the best of G.F. Handel. The winner will join seven other saintly souls to make up the Elate Eight. Who will Amelia or Fanny be joining? Just to refresh your memory, that would be Stephen, Augustine of Canterbury, Franz Jaggerstatter, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Raymond Nonnatus, Martin Luther, and Florence Nightingale. One of this group will, soon enough, be crowned in (extra special) glory.

Amelia Bloomer

Amelia is remembered in the church as a woman who saw women as equal and valued members of the body of Christ. She worked tirelessly in her life to invite the Church and the State to recognize the dignity of women. She was a journalist, voting rights advocate, and temperance leader, among her many roles.

Amelia Bloomer began her prophetic ministry in the temperance movement. She saw the results of alcohol consumption -- violence, men squandering their pay on alcohol instead of food, and health issues. She wanted it eradicated from all aspects of society, including food. She responded to criticism made by a prominent wife of an elected official that one could not bake holiday treats without the addition of brandy, saying, “That lady must be a wretched cook indeed who cannot make apple dumplings, mince pie, or cake palatable without the addition of poisonous substances.”

She advocated for less-restricting fashions for women, seeing the style of the day as oppressive and damaging. When criticized by men for advocating for women wearing the style of pants that would bear her name, bloomers, she quipped, “Let men be compelled to wear our dress for awhile and we should soon hear them advocating a change.”

Amelia worked tirelessly for suffrage, and she pushed for the right of women to hold elected offices. Her mind and wit, quick and sharp, frequently pointed out the absurdities of the arguments for the continued disempowerment of women in government. Women, argued the majority of elected male leaders of the day, were created to submit to laws, not to make them. She countered, “It will not do to say that it is out of woman's sphere to assist in making laws, for if that were so, then it should be also out of her sphere to submit to them.”

She added, to the clergy who argued gender discrimination was God’s holy will, “Man represents us, legislates for us, and now holds himself accountable for us! How kind in him, and what a weight is lifted from us! We shall no longer be answerable to the laws of God or man, no longer be subject to punishment for breaking them.”

In her newspaper The Lily, Amelia created a forum addressing serious issues concerning women, and gave them a voice. Bloomer said of her paper, ”It is woman that speaks through The Lily. It is upon an important subject, too, that she comes before the public to be heard.”

The forum she gave to women to speak, to be heard, and to be empowered continues to nurture all who demand dignity. Her words still ring true, and still challenge us.

-- Laurie Brock

Fanny Crosby

Fanny Crosby is easily given the appellations of “mother of modern American congregational singing” and “Queen of Gospel Song Writers.” Her more than eight thousand hymn texts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries make her among the most prolific hymn writers of all time. More remarkable than her myriad compositions is that she wrote all of her hymns while blind.

Far from seeing her blindness as a burden and affliction, Crosby noted that “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." Indeed, her faithfulness required no sight: “if I had a choice,” she said, “I would still choose to remain blind… for when I die, the first face I will ever see will be the face of my blessed savior.”

Hymn-writing for Crosby wasn’t a matter of making money, or earning a living. She noted that she always began her work in prayer: “I never undertake a hymn without first asking the good Lord to be my inspiration.” Evidently the work of working and re-working lyrics didn’t burden Crosby, either. “It is not enough to have song on your lips,” she said, “you must also have a song in your heart.” Crosby’s prayerfulness was not without practicality, though – and while her hymns have often been criticized for being overly sentimental, one can’t deny the honesty she brought to her own life of prayer: “God will answer you prayers better than you think,” she wrote. “Of course, one will not always get exactly what he has asked for....We all have sorrows and disappointments, but one must never forget that, if commended to God, they will issue in good....His own solution is far better than any we could conceive.”

But of the words all the words Fanny Crosby may have written, it is her hymns that have stirred the hearts of millions of Christians in the United States and around the world. Her best known hymn, “Blessed Assurance,” speaks of the promise found in following Jesus:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine;
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

-- David Sibley

Amelia Bloomer vs. Fanny Crosby

  • Amelia Bloomer (59%, 3,800 Votes)
  • Fanny Crosby (41%, 2,650 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,450

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Amelia Bloomer: The image is from the National Park Service. Here’s the tag - in May 1851 Amelia Bloomer introduced Susan B. Anthony to Elizabeth Cady Stanton as depicted in the life-sized bronze figures sculpted by Ted Aub. In "When Anthony Met Stanton" as in real-life, Bloomer and Stanton are wearing the "Bloomer Costume" which bloomer publicized in "The Lily."
Fanny Crosby: picture in the public domain.


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204 comments on “Amelia Bloomer vs. Fanny Crosby”

    1. Likewise! We use gospel and bluegrass music at our services and, although raised in a High Church tradition, have grown to enjoy the direct simplicity of the music. Threes no mistaking the message. Hang on Fanny, there may be another "late surge" at the end!

    2. I was going to vote for Bloomer. But singing Blessed Assurance brought tears to my eyes and made my heart sing, so Fanny got my vote.

        1. It has been a long time since I sang it all the way through and it inspired me to vote for Fanny. A nostalgic vote for sure.

      1. As I read those words, I could hear my grandmother singing them as she worked in her kitchen, many years ago.

        That clinched my decision, because otherwise I couldn't decide.

      2. Me, too! I thought Fanny would be ahead due to the inclusion of the song at the end! I'm surprised.

    1. Always for me a hard choice when putting two women against each other. With so few women vs so many men, I would hope next year they would not pair up two women but maybe give the women more of a chance by pairing them with a man.

      1. Remember that both of these women got to this matchup by beating men. But two of the initial matchups did pit women against each other. I wonder how the SEC decides on those initial contests - it can't just be puns, can it?

  1. For Amelia Bloomer and Fanny Crosby
    Tune: Simple Gifts, Hymnal ’82, 554, ‘Tis the gift to be simple . . .

    ‘Tis the gift to discover the true gifts we’ve been giv’n.
    ‘Tis the gift to offer all we have to Heav’n.
    To serve as we have talent in each happenstance
    is joyous joining in holy dance.
    When we receive with heart and mind,
    The longings and wisdom that God has designed,
    And pour out the insights of our deepest souls,
    We honor God and reveal God’s love.

    She bloomed in a time when women were maligned;
    Were seen as weak and frail with feeble minds.
    She wrote and she published and she dressed with sense.
    In face of scorn she persisted yet.
    Thank God for strong Amelia
    Who saw what was wrong and who worked to call
    Attention of the public to iniquity.
    Her work did much to set women free.

    A woman with blindness – only in her eyes –
    Still exercised her vision true and wise.
    Aunt Fanny heard the music in her heart and soul,
    With prayer she wrote lyrics that still ring forth.
    When with our inward eyes we see
    Assurance of God’s gen’rous blessings free,
    Like her we can choose to share the joy
    Of wondrous love that can never cloy.

    Praise to God the Creator, pouring forth with love
    From the depth of Being all that e’re becomes.
    Praise to God the Redeemer; with us lived and died,
    And rose again e’en though crucified.
    Praise to the Spirit flowing free
    Who guides, sings and is creativity.
    Sing praise to God Who Is Community
    The Three in One and the One in Three.

    1. Thank you Diana! It is a joy to read the hymn and try to work out the tune. By the third line the hymn starts to sing itself. You and your hymn poetry are a joy, thank you.

    2. 'Tis a gift to have you share these wonderful hymns! I still think you should published them.

      1. I'm planning to put them into a PDF format after the Golden Halo is awarded and will send them to anyone who wants the collection.

        1. What a wonderful idea. They are inspiring and yet, no favoritism is expressed. Thank you for sharing your gift.

          1. To be honest, Ann, the biggest temptation is wanting to put in my almost always strong opinion about the saint I prefer. Thanks for saying that I've succeeded in resisting.

        2. Please ask the SEC to put it up more publicly for us. I definitely want to be on your list but have lots of LentMadness participants who are asking for it as well.

    3. Best one yet, about the one match up I was struggling with.
      Your lyrics inspired me to stick w/ my mother's favorite hymnist
      "blind only in her eyes" What wonders her mind saw.

    4. The tune was also used by Sidney Carter for "Lord of the Dance". One of my favorites.
      Thank you, Diana, for your lyrics.

    5. Your hymns are such a joy. I keep thinking how nice it would be to sing some on All Saints Day.

    6. Thank you so much, Diana, for all the lyrics you have given us this year. In your honor, and because of my great love for her hymns, I vote for Fanny Crosby.

  2. I voted for Fanny just because I love many of the hymns she wrote. The fact that she did it while blind makes it all the more amazing.

  3. Fanny has my vote - to live as a victorious overcomer in spite of her blindness - writing over 8000 hymns to boot - inspires me to keep my eyes (inside and out) on Christ Jesus all the more!

  4. "... you must also have a song in your heart".

    "Filled with His goodness, lost in His love".


  5. Fanny was a model for saintly living but more importantly wrote hymns that have inspired and brought comfort to thousands in the past and to come.

  6. Amelia. Because I can't stand American gospel songs, except the spirituals. There, I confessed my blind spot.

    1. I agree! I voted for Amelia for that reason and in memory of my grandmother, a lifelong member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. She saw firsthand the effects of alcohol on the lives of rural and small-town women. They weren't allowed to work except on the farm, and were dependent on the men who drank away the money and frequently were violent. Many times she walked to the next farm to help her neighbor deal with her alcoholic husband. This one's for Carrie.

  7. There was no question in my mind this morning: Amelia all the way! We cannot fully appreciate the change in status for women as equal children of God that she advocated. Just imagine what it was really like not to be able even to vote! Fanny's theology (God wanted her to be blind??) is extremely distasteful to me.

    1. I understood her statements about her blindness as a rejection of ableism, not theology. Remember that until very recently, people who were blind were seen as objects of pity, unable to work or live fully. (My son-in-law, whose parents were both blind, told us once that more than once our state's Child Protective Service was called in on his family, solely because the caller was sure two blind people couldn't adequately care for a child.) Sure, the statements are couched in terms that don't sound great to 21st century ears, but I hear the same underlying statement that I hear with deaf communities seeing themselves as a culture, and not needing to be "cured".

    2. It's interesting how differently people can read the same statement - I read Fanny as saying that she (even blind) was fearfully and wonderfully made, made in the image of God and not in need of healing. For me, that's an incredibly powerful statement.

  8. Fanny! She brought beauty, joy, and love of God to all though her amazing gift from God. Isn't that what we are all called to do?

  9. Fanny Crosby was amazing! Blind Christian woman in the late 1800s and early 1900s writing and being published in her time and still sung today now that is amazing!

  10. What a terribly hard choice. Thank you, Diana, for "blindness--only in her eyes." And Blessed Assurance is the song living in my head these days. But as a journalist, although one who thinks fruit cake without brandy is tasteless, I had to vote for Amerlia.

  11. What a terribly hard choice. Thank you, Diana, for "blindness--only in her eyes." And Blessed Assurance is the song living in my head these days. But as a journalist, although one who thinks fruit cake without brandy is tasteless, I had to vote for Amelia.

  12. I'm mad at Fanny Crosby for beating out G.F. Handel, but how can I vote for someone who sneers at cooks who put brandy in their mince pies? Advice, please!

  13. Really tough choice! In the end it was Fanny for me because of the solace and joy I often find in so many of her hymns.

  14. "We shall no longer be answerable to the laws of God or man?"
    Amelia might have been a great feminist, but I didn't hear much about God or Christ in her life.. at least in today's description... which seems to me part of what saintliness is about. So sorry, can't go for Amelia... which leaves Fanny by default.

    1. I agree. I really wanted to feel more of a contest between the two - but Fanny's devotion to God made it an easy choice for me.

  15. In a variation on Rock Paper Scissors, I determined that Bloomer covers Fanny. But seriously, Bloomer's witty defense of equality swayed me.

  16. Isn't being a 'saint' about living a life of Christian Faith? Many have pursued social justice issues without a faith basis. Amelia's relationship to our Lord is what? It appears that her faith is known to God alone. Fanny on the other hand's is clear. When she prays, God doesn't say "who is this really?" Biography of my 2nd Great Grandfather reports that he was a fan of her works.

    1. I'm hardly a Bloomer expert, but her first-round bio provides a little info about her religious life. Maybe we'll learn more in the Elate 8.

  17. If the bracket were arranged differently, these two could have been head to head for the Golden Halo. I go with Fanny Crosby. Her impact on the Episcopal Church as well as the greater church is sung every Sunday in many different parts of the country.

  18. Beautiful hymns are a joy, but the fact that women today are participants in all aspects of a spiritual and secular life are thanks to women like Amelia.

  19. "this not the fast I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke; to set the oppressed free and to break every yoke."--Isaiah 58:6

    It seems to me that Amelia heard this call and spent her life answering it. My vote is for Amelia.

  20. My vote for Fanny stems in part from the hymns I heard as a child. Our congregation sang many "sentimental" hymns about Jesus and His Glory, Jesus and His Love" and I have remembered those words to this day.
    They give me great comfort in these troubled times.

    1. Amen! Me too! Her hymns take me to my childhood in a little country church in Mississippi.

  21. I went with Fanny. Besides what was mentioned above, for this story: it's reported that during the Civil War, Fanny Crosby was at a hotel restaurant a wearing a rather large Union favor (apparently a pin with bunting or some such.) A lady with Southern sympathies walked up to her and told her to "take off that filthy rag". Fanny promptly stood up, squared her fists, and said "say that again". (I imagine so she knew where to punch.) Restaurant staff had to intervene. This story reminded me so much of my son-in-law's late mother, who was also blind and similarly feisty, that it swayed my vote. (Also, the sneer at booze in food turned me against Amelia. My speciality dish is pork chops cooked with Jack Daniels.)