The History of Father's Day

Why we celebrate Dads the way we do

Many people assume that Father's Day and Mother's Day were cooked up by the greeting card companies to make money off the sale of cards and gifts. In reality, the campaign for Father's Day was started in 1909 when a young woman was inspired by a Mother's Day sermon. When you're getting frustrated looking for Father's Day gifts this year, keep in mind how the holiday began.

How it all started

One Sunday in the spring of 1909, Sonora Dodd was sitting in church listening to a Mother's Day sermon. The minister's words struck a chord with Sonora as her own mother had died in childbirth and she had been raised instead by her father. After Sonora's mother died, her father, civil war veteran William Smart, single-handedly raised his six children on their rural farm. By today's standard, raising six children as a single parent is almost impossible - imagine how it must have been for William, raising all those children himself and running a farm!

Sonora, recognizing all the selfless sacrifices her father had made to raise his children, started her crusade. Her father's birthday was in June, so Sonora organized the first Father's Day celebration on June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington. Sonora's Father's Day gift to her dad was the start of an international celebration recognizing fathers all over the world.

Presidential support

Sonora's Father's Day idea was celebrated on a smaller scale for more than a decade. Then, in 1924, President Calvin Coolidge gave the first presidential support for a national Father's Day. It wasn't until 1966 that President Lyndon Johnston signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday in June to be Father's Day. In 1972, President Nixon signed the presidential resolution that made the celebration permanent. Sonora's Father's Day idea was finally getting the recognition it deserved.

Remembering William's memory

We hear more often about single mothers rather than single fathers. Men raising kids on their own make up a fairly small minority, so support groups are fewer and harder to find. If you're looking for Father's Day ideas, why not spend some quality time with Dad helping out other men in your community? Volunteer at a local men's shelter, or stop by to visit a single dad you know and offer your support. This holiday isn't just about Father's Day gifts, it's about recognizing the hard work Dad does and the sacrifices he makes for his family. Find ways you and your dad can work together to help someone else in your community.

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