Two biographies focus on two gifted women
Anne Bradstreet: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Puritan Poet by Heidi L. Nichols (P&R Publishing, 2006) 211 pages, $13.99.
Her Heart Can See: The Life and Hymns of Fanny J. Crosby by Edith L. Blumhofer (Eerdmans, 2005) 365 pages, $20.00.
Anne Bradstreet and Fanny Crosby are important figures in American church history. Today we look at a pair of biographies that chronicle the story of each of these gifted women. The thing that unites them is that they both wrote – one wrote lyrics and the other poetry – and they both exhibited strength and resilience in the face of trials.
While Crosby is probably the better known of the two women, Anne Bradstreet comes first in the pages of history. Bradstreet formed part of the early generations of Puritan immigrants to the new world, traveling with John Winthrop’s group in 1630. Amidst daily trials that threatened life and peace of soul, Anne poured herself into her work of marriage and motherhood. In her private moments she picked up the quill and wrote poetry.
A few years later her brother took her poems back to England and found a publisher. This was no small task at the time, for women were discouraged from such ventures and considered inferior for the task of writing. Nevertheless, in 1560 she became America’s first published poet.
Heidi Nichols puts together this splendid introduction to Anne Bradstreet that contains a biographical sketch, along with selections of Bradstreet’s poetry, letters, and proverbs. While the biography section can be quickly consumed, the poems are best enjoyed at a slow simmer.
This should not be relegated to the category of being a “women’s book.” However, Christmas is soon upon us, and I do believe it would make a good present for a wife or daughter. (Once you give it to them, you can always borrow it back!)
A second biography is about the life and hymns of Fanny Crosby, the nineteenth-century hymn writer. As any good Baptist knows, she is the author of dozens of songs in our hymnbook. But did you know she composed more than 9,000 hymns?
You probably knew the amazing fact that she did all of this work even though she was blind. But did you know that she was not born blind? She was injured in infancy through a negligent doctor.
Edith Blumhofer gives us a very thorough biography of Crosby, utilizing primary documents and extensive historical research of the period. It is hard to take Crosby down from the pedestal, but Blumhofer ably weaves through Crosby’s life in such a way that brings out her humanity.
This biography would make an excellent addition to a church library, or as a Christmas gift for a minister of music. (Scott Lamb pastors Providence Baptist Church, St. Louis, and is a regular book reviewer for The Pathway. To respond to this review or to read about other books, visit www.wisdomofthepages.com.)