"Footprints in the Sand" was written by Mary Stevenson in 1936, but since she had no knowledge of how copyright laws worked, she didn't get credit for the poem until 1984. Stevenson often distributed hand-written versions of the poem to people that need cheering up. Somehow it ended up in print with the author listed as Anonymous. By the time Stevenson discovered it, the poem was so widely published that she couldn't prove she was the author.
Though her friends encouraged her to pursue the copyright, Stevenson gave up on the idea until 1984. Tucked away in an old suitcase she found a handwritten copy of the poem dated 1939, before "Footprints" was first published. The U.S. Copyright office issued Stevenson her copyright, 48 years after she crafted the poem.
So many people tried to claim authorship of the poem that the copyright office insisted on having the hand-written poem forensically tested. Though it took 11 years, the paper was authenticated and authorship proven, without a doubt.
"Footprints in the Sand" is published on secular greeting cards as well as in religious circles. It is often paired with graphics showing a row of footprints as the sole markings on a deserted beach. The estate of Mary Stevenson operates a "Footprints" website, Footprints-inThe-Sand.com. As the cursor moves around the page, footprints follow it.