The history of Father's Day in the U.S.
|Father’s Day is Sunday, June 16th. Unlike Mother’s Day, which became a national holiday in 1914, Father’s Day had a much longer road to travel. Only in 1966 did President Lyndon Johnson sign a proclamation declaring the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. President Richard Nixon signed a bill into law in 1972 making it a permanent holiday.
Sonora Smart Dodd got the first idea for a Father’s Day while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909 in Spokane, Washington. Her father, William Smart, became a widow when his wife (Sonora’s mother) died while giving birth to their sixth child. Left to raise a new baby and five other children, Sonora saw her dad as courageous in a period that gave more importance to mothers in a child’s upbringing.
The Smarts lived on a rural farm in Washington where life was not easy for two parents. After she became an adult, Sonora realized how selfless and brave her father had been. It was this realization that inspired her to hold the first Father’s Day celebration in Spokane, Washington, on June 19th, 1910, one hundred and four years ago this month. She saw her father as a courageous and loving man who had made numerous sacrifices while raising his children as a single parent. She campaigned nationally for a holiday for dads to be held in the month of June, the month of her father’s birth. It took many years for her wish to come to fruition, but she lived to see it become a law. Sonora died in 1978 at the age of 96 and is buried in Spokane. She has a granddaughter living in Vienna, Austria, who visited Spokane for the hundred-year celebration of Father’s Day.
Father’s Day became a day to celebrate all men who act as father figures in our lives. This includes grandfathers, uncles, stepfathers, and even unrelated males who have given of themselves to become role models for children.
Unlike in Sonora’s time, when many fathers did not take much of a part in their offspring’s lives, today’s dads are very different. Fathers and mothers cooperate in child rearing and homemaking. Fathers recognize that family life can be rewarding and children need their involvement. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, fifteen percent of single parents are men. In 2008, there were more than 158,000 stay-at-home dads raising children while their wives work. Fathers read to their children, praise them when they do well, and take them on all kinds of outings.
In 1999, it was estimated that $95 million in card sales made Father’s Day the fifth most popular card-sending day. Historically, just days before Father’s Day, 53% of Americans do not know what they will buy for Father’s Day. Cards, dinner, sporting goods, home improvement merchandise, electronics, and gardening tools are among the most popular gifts. A special day for fathers is celebrated around the globe in almost every country. It is celebrated here thanks to an appreciative daughter from Spokane, Washington.