History of Father’s Day

          On June 19, 1910 Sonora Smart Dodd held a Father’s Day celebration at the YMCA in Spokane, Washington.  William Jackson Smart was her father, a civil war veteran and a single parent who raised his six children there.  She first proposed the idea at the Old Centenary Presbyterian Church where she was a member. She told the pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday to honor them like the mothers did.  She initially suggested June 5th which was her father’s birthday, but the pastors did not have enough time to prepare the sermons. On June 19, 1910, sermons were conducted honoring fathers on the first Father’s Day.

          Dodd stopped promoting the celebration in the 1920s as she was studying at the Art Institute of Chicago and it faded into obscurity, even in Spokane.  She returned in the 1930s and began promoting the celebration again, raising awareness at a national level. She had the help of the Father’s Day Council that was founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize the holiday’s commercial promotion by 1938.  The holiday was resisted for its first few decades, viewing it as only an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother’s day. By mid 1980s the Father’s Day Council said it had become a second Christmas for all the men’s gift-oriented industries.

          Congress introduced a national recognition of the holiday in 1913.  President Woodrow Wilson spoke at a Father’s Day celebration in Spokane.  He wanted to make it an officially recognized federal holiday but Congress again resisted.  Other attempts were made to make that day officially observed, but still was defeated by Congress.  

          In 1957 Margaret Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers, singling out one of the two parents.  President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers in 1966. He designated the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. It was made a permanent national holiday six years later when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

Dr Fredda Branyon

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