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Honoring the History of Father’s Day

by Angelique Platas

Jun 16, 2019

Anastasiia Stiahailo | Dreamstime.com

Travel Tips

Historically, women haven’t always had the upper hand, except for Mother’s Day. The national holiday was created nearly 60 years before Father’s Day would officially have the honor. It would take boots on the ground, war and retail.

The first official Father’s Day celebration took place in Washington on June 19, 1910, the third Sunday in June. The first unofficial attempt at honoring fathers came a couple years earlier when a church in West Virginia held a service honoring all fathers and the memory of more than 350 men who died the year before in a Fairmont Coal Company mine explosion.

This one-time event inspired Sonora Smart Dodd, daughter of William Jackson Smart, to establish a day honoring her own father. Sonora Smart Dodd was raised by her widower father alongside her five biological siblings, rounding out Jackson Smart’s total 14 children.

The twice married, twice widowed, Civil War Veteran was a father to 14 children — five from his first marriage, six from his second and his second wife’s three children from a previous marriage. Smart played both parental roles to his children still at home in Spokane, Washington, when his second wife passed away. Sonora, raised by her single father since the age of 16, recounted his parenting as selfless while playing both parental roles for her and her younger siblings.

Deciding to establish a day for fathers equal to Mother’s Day, she began campaigning at local churches, shops and various establishments around town, attempting to rally some support from the community. Mother’s Day was almost immediately a hit with department stores sponsoring events and encouraging individuals to honor mom with special gifts and cards — one would think Father’s Day would be just as simple from a marketing prospective.

While Sonora’s efforts didn’t immediately result in a booming response, she did get a statewide celebration of Father’s Day in Washington on June 19, 1910.

The holiday began slowly gaining traction until the 1920s and 1930s with talks for scrapping both holidays altogether in lieu of one holiday, Parent’s Day. The Great Depression hit and squashed this idea, and it wasn’t until the beginning of World War II advertisers would reintroduce Father’s Day as way to honor all the men in the military and support the troops.

The celebratory day became a national convention, but wouldn’t become a legitimate holiday until President Nixon signed a declaration making Father’s Day a federal holiday in 1972.

Of course, the holiday today is an economic boom for retailers, but at the core is a touching story of a daughter honoring her father and a nation rallying to honor all fathers.


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