When Was the First-Ever Father's Day?

List: Posted: 10/20/11

Father’s Day is a lighthearted holiday where we show appreciation for the hard work and sacrifice our fathers make in order to raise us the best they can.  Often symbolized by gift-giving and family outings, this holiday has been recognized for nearly one hundred years.  Few people know how Father’s Day came about and may fail to realize the significance of the holiday.

How it All Began


In the early 20th century, parenting was mainly carried out by the mother - society viewed fathers as the breadwinners not to be involved in child-rearing.  Thus, Mother’s Day was an established and well-received holiday by the early 1900’s. 


In 1909, a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd wanted to establish a day to pay respect for her father, a veteran of the Civil War whose wife died during childbirth.  Her dad then had to raise six children on his own.  She took it upon herself to spread the word.


She approached her pastor in her hometown of Spokane, Washington who then helped her publicize the idea. They went to the local YMCA with a proposal to establish her idea of a Father’s Day.  They were on board and decided to back her idea up.

The First Father's Day


The first official celebration of Father’s Day was in June of 1910.  Originally, Dodd wanted to celebrate the holiday on her father’s actual birthday, June 5th, but the pastor and YMCA needed additional time to set up, making the official first Father’s Day on June 19th, 1910. 


To celebrate, local YMCA members went to their churches wearing either red or white roses.  Red represented a living father, white represented a deceased one.   Dodd spread the word by visiting ill fathers in their homes and handing out gifts.


Although the first celebration was a success, people across the United States did not respect a holiday dedicated to fathers.  Instead, the holiday was met with satire and laughter despite the efforts of Dodd and the YMCA.  Father’s Day was gaining publicity, but more as a running joke than a serious celebration.

How it Became a National Holiday


It was 1916, and the president at the time, Woodrow Wilson, took a trip to Washington to make a speech about Father’s Day.  He supported it as a national holiday, but when he went to Congress with the idea, they shut it down.  Eight years later, Calvin Coolidge endorsed the idea as well and announced his support, but had fears it would be commercialized.


Forty one years passed until further action was taken.  This is when a Senator in Maine, Margaret Smith, wrote to Congress about establishing Father’s Day as a national holiday.  She accused them of ignoring any effort to promote the Father’s Day.  It took another 9 years for Lyndon Johnson in 1966 to proclaim the holiday when he elected the third Sunday of June to be Father’s Day.  


Finally, in 1962, President Richard Nixon made Father’s Day a national holiday.


It took a lot of hard work for Father’s Day to gain the respect of the nation.  The sacrifices fathers make to raise children often go overlooked.  This year, try to appreciate all that your dad does for you, and celebrate by thanking him for his hard work and unconditional love.


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