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Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.


The most revered woman in late 19th-century America is someone you've probably never heard of: Fanny Crosby.

Even if she is barely remembered today, the songs she wrote are still sung every week from coast to coast and around the world.

She was born Frances Jane Crosby in Putnam County, New York, in 1820. She died in February 1915, just a month short of her 95th birthday. And what a long life of achievement it was!

She earned great fame and appreciation for her charitable work in inner cities, especially when she nursed the sick during New York's terrible cholera epidemic in the late 1840s. Thousands fled the city, but Fanny stayed behind, contracting the disease herself but later recovering.

She probably holds the record for having met more US presidents than any other American, living or dead -- an astounding 21, or almost half of the 43 men who've held the office. She met every single one (in some cases after they served in the White House) from John Quincy Adams to Woodrow Wilson. She was also the very first woman to address the US Congress.

Her memory was legendary. By age 15, she had memorized the first five books of the Old Testament, the first four of the New (the gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John), the books of Proverbs and Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms.

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