Ada Ruth Habershon (1861-1918) was an English book author and hymn writer who wrote the lyrics of the gospel song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”
Born on Jan. 8, 1861, in London, she was the daughter of Samuel and Grace Habershon. Her father was an eminent doctor. Raised in a Christian home, Habershon became a believer and a devoted Bible student.
As a young woman, she attended the preaching services of English Baptist minister Charles Spurgeon. In 1884, she met American evangelist Dwight Moody and singer Ira Sankey on their tour of England. At their request, she visited the United States and gave a series of lectures on the Old Testament.
She later published at least 17 books about the Old Testament and the New Testament. These included “Types in the Old Testament,” “The Study of the Parables,” “Hidden Pictures in the Old Testament, or How the New Testament is Concealed in the Old Testament” and “The Titles of the Lord of Glory.”
Habershon began writing hymns in 1899 when she wrote several ones in the German language. While ill in 1901, she penned her first ones in English.
When evangelist R.A. Torrey and singer Charles Alexander visited Great Britain in 1905, Alexander asked Habershon to write hymns for their evangelistic tours. She consented and eventually sent him more than 200 hymns. These included “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” “He Will Hold Me Fast,” “Are You Ready for the Coming?” and “Meet Me in the Homeland.” Alexander, who wrote the music, once called Habershon the “best gospel songwriter in the world.” He also said of her, “She was an invalid all the time, but those who suffer best know how to touch the heart.”
She died on Feb. 1, 1918, in London at the age of 57. She is buried in Hampstead Cemetery.
In the United States, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” was discovered by A.P. Carter, a member of the famous Carter family, known as the first family of country music. He took the hymn and reworked it into a country song titled “Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By).” It was released in 1935.