Marquette, MI – June 21, 2020 – Father’s Day has come and gone, and as with many holidays in the public consciousness, most people don’t know the story behind the celebration. Some people may think that it was just another greeting card company creation designed to make as much money as possible, but in truth, the origins of Father’s Day are nowhere near that commercial.
There had been celebrations in certain parts of Europe commemorating fathers dating back to the 1500s, but the first Father’s Day as we know it today was observed in the United States on June 19th, 1910. It was the brainchild of Sonora Smart Dodd, the daughter of a Civil War veteran who raised six (yes, SIX!) children as a single parent. After hearing a sermon about Mother’s Day, she was inspired to spearhead the creation of a holiday honoring fathers.
The new holiday remained a regional celebration, however, and when Dodd went off to the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1920s, it all but died out. It wasn’t until she returned to Spokane in the 1930s that Father’s Day began to gain nationwide recognition. With the help of certain groups (tobacco pipe makers, tie manufacturers, etc.) that stood to profit from the success of a day honoring fathers, the idea of Father’s Day began to enter the public eye.
The first president to voice his support of Father’s Day was Woodrow Wilson, who in 1916 sent a telegram to the Spokane celebration expressing his support and admiration for the work that Sonora Dodd had done to that point. In fact, he wanted to make Father’s Day an official holiday, but congress resisted, fearing that it would become heavily commercialized.
Though Calvin Coolidge also voiced his support for the holiday in 1924, it wasn’t until Lyndon Johnson issued a presidential proclamation honoring fathers that Father’s Day became a nationwide observance, set as the third Sunday in June. Even then, it wasn’t a permanent national holiday until 1972, when Richard Nixon signed it into law.
The origins of Father’s Day are far more complex than one might think, but if you feel at all jaded about the holiday, think back to the father that inspired it all: Civil War veteran, single parent, raising six children himself. If anyone deserves a holiday, he does.
Information for this article gathered from these sources: