A Brief History of Father’s Day & How It Came To Be Celebrated

A Look At How One’s Woman’s Pursuit Helped Create An Annual Father’s Day Celebration

Like many of the great accomplishments involving a man, a woman helped lead the way in the creation of the idea of a Father’s Day. Initially, Father’s Day actually gained it’s support because of the early success of Mother’s Day, a holiday spearheaded by the efforts of Anna Jarvis. In 1909, after attending a Mother’s Day service, Sonora Louise Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington decided to get the ball rolling on a celebration for her father and dad’s around the country.

Dodd was actually on the other side of the country from where Anna Jarvis’ fight began in West Virginia, but in the same way Anna was inspired by her mother, Sonora was inspired by her father who was widowed when Sonora was just 16 years old. A Civil War veteran, her father William Jackson Smart would raise Sonora and her five siblings as a single father. She was just 27 when her fight for Father’s Day began in 1909, but by June 19, 2010 Spokane, Washington was holding it’s first Father’s Day Service and celebration.

Various U.S. Presidents supported the idea early on including Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge ,but Father’s Day took much longer to develop as compared to Mother’s Day. Many were skeptical of the idea and others didn’t see the need. It wouldn’t be until President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day in 1966 that things became serious. Finally, in 1972, President Richard Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father’s Day to be held on the third Sunday of June.

While there are other theories on the origins of Father’s Day, Sonora Smart Dodd is the one credited with helping establish it, albeit a process that took decades.  She fought for the cause throughout her life, taking a break at times, but always returning to the cause with more intensity and gaining tremendous support along the way.

Dodd would be honored for her contribution at the World’s Fair in Spokane in 1974. She died four years later in 1978 at age 96.

The annual Father’s Day celebration lives on.


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Kevin Benoit

Kevin Benoit is the editor of Parlé Magazine. He founded the magazine while in college and continues to run it today. Follow him on IG: @parlewithme Read more articles by Kevin.

Kevin Benoit has 1811 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin Benoit

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