Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) was blinded by an illness as an infant, but she lived a long life full of joy and accomplishment. She entered the New York School for the Blind at age 15, and remained there for 35 years, first as a student and then as a teacher. She wrote poetry from the time that she was a child, and published her first book of poetry, A Blind Girl and Other Poems, at age 24.
But Fanny Crosby is best known for her hymns. She wrote more than 9000 hymns during her lifetime. Many, such as "All the Way My Savior Leads Me" and "Blessed Assurance" quickly became standards––and are still included in many hymnals a century after her death. Fanny wrote "To God Be the Glory" about 1872, and included it in a collection of hymns entitled Brightest and Best. However, while many of the hymns in that collection became quite famous, this one didn't catch on––at least, not in America.
But Evangelist Ira Stankey published the song in his Sacred Songs and Solos, and took it with him to England. It caught on well enough there to be included in several hymnals. Then in 1954, Billy Graham went to England for his London Crusade. Someone gave a copy of the song to Cliff Barrows, Graham's song leader, and suggested including it in the songbook that they were compiling for the crusade. Barrows had heard the song on an earlier visit to England, and was impressed with its strong note of praise––so he included it in the songbook and used it in the crusade. The crowd responded so enthusiastically that he sang it nearly every night.
Upon returning to the United States, Graham and Barrows introduced the song to an American audience for the first time at their Nashville Crusade. Once again, the crowd responded enthusiastically, so Graham and Barrows adopted the song as one of their standards. Because of their influence, the compilers of hymnals began including it in new hymnals. It has become sufficiently popular that I was surprised to learn that it had languished in disuse for such a long time.
- Richard Niell Donovan