Who Invented Fathers Day?

© Gerry Gay / Getty Images

Father’s Day is held on the third Sunday in June to celebrate and honor fathers. And while the first Mother’s Day was celebrated in 1914 after President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation making Mother’s Day the second Sunday in May, Father’s Day did not become official until 1966. 

The Story of Father’s Day

Who invented Father’s Day? While there are at least two or three different people credited with that honor, most historians consider Sonora Smart Dodd of Washington State to be the first person to have proposed the holiday in 1910.

Dodd’s father was a Civil War veteran named William Smart. Her mother died giving birth to her sixth child, which left William Smart a widower with five children to raise on his own. When Sonora Dodd married and had her own children, she realized what a tremendous job her father had done in raising her and her siblings as a single parent.

After hearing her pastor give a sermon about the newly established Mother’s Day, Sonora Dodd suggested to him that there should also be a Father’s Day and proposed that the date be June 5, her father’s birthday. However, her pastor needed more time to prepare a sermon, so he moved the date to June 19, the third Sunday of the month.

Father’s Day Traditions

One of the early ways established to celebrate Father’s Day was to wear a flower. Sonora Dodd suggested wearing a red rose if your father was still living and wearing a white flower if your father was deceased. Later, presenting him with a special activity, gift, or a card became commonplace.

Dodd spent years campaigning for Father’s Day to be celebrated nationally. She commissioned the help of men’s goods manufacturers and others who might benefit from a Father’s Day, such as the makers of ties, tobacco pipes, and other products that would make for a suitable gift for fathers.

In 1938, a Father’s Day Council was founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers to help with the widespread promotion of Father’s Day. Still, the public continued to resist the idea. Many Americans believed an official Father’s Day would be just another way for retailers to make money since the popularity of Mother’s Day boosted the sale of gifts for mothers.

Making Father’s Day Official

As early as 1913, bills had been submitted to congress to recognize Father’s Day nationally. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson pushed to make Father’s Day official, but couldn’t muster enough support from Congress. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge would also recommend that Father’s Day be observed, but did not go so far as to issue a national proclamation.

In 1957, Margaret Chase Smith, a senator from Maine, wrote a proposal that accused Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while only honoring mothers. It wasn’t until 1966 that President Lyndon Johnson finally signed a presidential proclamation that made the third Sunday of June, Father’s Day. In 1972, President Richard Nixon made Father’s Day a permanent national holiday.

What Gifts Fathers Want

Forget about snazzy ties, cologne, or car parts. What fathers really want is family time. According to a Fox News report, “About 87 percent of dads would rather have dinner with the family. Most fathers don’t want another tie, as 65 percent said they would rather get nothing than another tie.” And before you go running out to buy men’s cologne, only 18 percent of dads said they want some kind of personal care product. And only 14 percent said they want automotive accessories.

Article By Mary Bellis for Thoughtco.com

Source: The History of Fathers Day (thoughtco.com)

Author: Dennis Hickey

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