... celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds and the influence of fathers in society
Fatherís Day is a celebration inaugurated in the early twentieth century to complement Motherís Day in celebrating fatherhood and male parenting. It is also celebrated to honor and commemorate our forefathers.
On June 19, 1910, an independently-invented Fatherís Day observance was celebrated through the efforts of Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington. After listening to a church sermon about the newly recognized Motherís Day, Dodd felt strongly that fatherhood needed recognition, as well. She wanted a celebration that honored fathers like her own father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran who was left to raise his family alone when his wife died giving birth to their sixth child when Sonora was 16 years old.
It took many years to make the holiday official. Where Motherís Day was met with enthusiasm, Fatherís Day was often met with laughter. The holiday was gathering attention but for the wrong reasons. It was the target of much satire, parody and derision. Many people saw it as the first step in filling the calendar with mindless promotions.
A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak in a Fatherís Day celebration and wanted to make it official, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become commercialized. U.S. President Calvin Coolidge recommended in 1924 that the day be observed by the nation, but stopped short of issuing a national proclamation. Two earlier attempts to formally recognize the holiday had been defeated by Congress. In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers, thus singling out just one of our two parents. In 1966 Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Fatherís Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when Richard M. Nixon signed it into law in 1972.
Contrary to popular belief, the first observance of Fatherís Day actually took place in Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5, 1908. It was organized by Mrs. Grace Golden Clayton, who wanted to celebrate the lives of the 210 fathers who had been lost in the December 6, 1907 Monongah Mining disaster in West Virginia. Clayton chose the Sunday nearest to the birthday of her recently deceased father.
Unfortunately, the day was overshadowed by other events in the city, West Virginia did not officially register the holiday, and it was not celebrated again. All the credit for Fatherís Day went to Sonora Dodd, who invented independently her own celebration of Fatherís Day just two years later, also influenced by Jarvisí Motherís Day.