Pops, Daddy, Papa, Dad, Father… No matter what you call him, today is the day we celebrate our fathers and the important father figures in our lives. Dads deserve to be recognized, but did you ever wonder about the history of Father’s Day? Read on and you’ll see.
The history of Father’s Day: What took so long?
While Mother’s Day was declared a national holiday by Woodrow Wilson in 1914, it took nearly 60 years for Father’s Day to be dedicated as such. It finally became a national holiday in 1972.
Why the long wait? Most historians think that commercialism may be to blame. Many companies in the early 1900s thought that dads lacked the sentimental appeal of mothers. Flowers and chocolates were not regarded as appropriate gifts for men, so entities that offered these popular Mother’s Day gifts were not interested in promoting the idea of Father’s Day.
Often, men derided the idea of a special day dedicated to dads. Fathers already enjoyed an honored position as the family leader, while mothers lacked recognition. Other men saw it as a commercial gimmick promoted to sell more products, which were often paid for by money the dads themselves earned!
First Father’s Day celebration
The very first Father’s Day was celebrated in Fairmont, West Virginia, in 1908. Grace Golden Clayton suggested that her local community honor the many miners who had been killed due to a terrible mining accident nearby. Locals honored the day, but it was not widely publicized and did not become an annual event.
A dedicated dad
Meanwhile, in the far western part of the United States, specifically Spokane, Washington, Sonora Smart Dodd began thinking about her own dear father. William Jackson Smart was a hard-working farmer and Civil War veteran. More than that, however, Sonora recognized her dad’s deep dedication and love for their family.
When Sonora’s mom died during childbirth, her father assumed the role of both mother and father to Sonora and her five siblings. He raised them all as a single parent, and Sonora was awed by the weight of responsibility her dad took on. As Sonora listened to a Mother’s Day sermon, she decided that fathers, too, deserved a day dedicated to recognizing their service and sacrifice for families.
Sonora proposed the idea of a day to honor fathers to the Spokane Ministerial Association. She talked about the idea with the local YMCA and other community leaders as well. Finally, gaining statewide support, the first Father’s Day in the area was celebrated on June 19, 1910, to coincide with her own father’s birthday.
Early recognition and adoption
Following the initial celebration in Spokane, Father’s Day gained gradual recognition across the United States. In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a national holiday in the United States, to be celebrated annually on the third Sunday in June.
Father’s Day today
Many U.S. families celebrate Father’s Day by gifting dads with presents, sending cards, calling, and by spending time together. Some communities still continue the tradition of wearing a red rose to honor their living father or a white rose to indicate that their father is deceased. Grandfathers, uncles, and other men are also honored for their efforts to train, inspire, and encourage the children in their lives.
How will you celebrate Father’s Day this year? Do you have a favorite memory about your dad or a silly “dad joke” to share? Tell us in the comments below.
Psst: If you own an RV, that makes you an “RV dad” and you absolutely need this to prove it!