Father’s Day will be celebrated this year on Sunday, June 20. Since Father’s Day falls in the summer, there are many outdoor activities that can be shared. How will you be celebrating Father’s Day?
The first known Father’s Day service in the United States occurred in Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5, 1908. Grace Golden Clayton, the daughter of a minister, proposed a service to honor all fathers, especially the 362 men who had died the previous December in a mining accident. The service was not promoted so very few people outside the local area knew about it.
In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington was inspired by Anna Jarvis and the idea of Mother’s Day, and tried to establish an official day to celebrate fathers as well. Her father, William Jackson Smart, a farmer and Civil War veteran, was a single parent who raised Sonora and her five brothers by himself after his wife, Ellen, died giving birth to their youngest child in 1898.
Sonora went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to drum up support for her idea. She proposed June 5th which was her father’s birthday, but the ministers chose the third Sunday in June so they would have more time after Mother’s Day (the second Sunday in May) to prepare their sermons.
On June 19, 1910, the first state-wide Father’s Day events commenced. Sonora delivered presents to handicapped fathers, boys from the YMCA decorated their lapels with fresh cut roses (red for living, white for deceased), and the city’s ministers devoted their sermons to fatherhood.
The idea of Father’s Day spread slowly because it didn’t have the same sentimental appeal as Mother’s Day. Men had a different role in the family during the first half of the century so many felt a special day to celebrate fatherhood was a silly idea because they felt it was the mothers who were did not get the recognition they deserved,. Many men scoffed at the idea and felt that the observance was just a commercial gimmick to sell more products, paid for by the men themselves. Today, it is estimated that Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on Father’s Day gifts.
Two events pushed the idea of Father’s Day forward. One was the Great Depression and the other was World War II. With so many people trying to save their money, the economy needed reasons for people to spend money. It was promoted by struggling stores as an occasion to get fathers some of the clothing and material goods they needed. During World War II, men were on the front lines so the desire to support American troops and the war effort provided another reason to support and show appreciation for fathers. Several groups were in favor of combining Mother’s Day and Father’s Day but struggling merchants derailed this effort because they thought people would spend more on two separate holidays.
1916, President Woodrow Wilson and his family personally observed the day. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed a resolution in favor of Father’s Day. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed an executive order that the holiday be celebrated on the third Sunday in June. In 1972, under President Richard Nixon, Congress passed an act officially making Father’s Day a national holiday. Sonora was alive to see her dream come true. She died six years later at the age of 96.
Some of us are not lucky enough to still have our fathers to celebrate Father’s Day with, but we can still honor them with our memories. For those who do still have your fathers you want to celebrate with, here are some of the most popular ways to celebrate Father’s Day: spend the day with him, share your favorite stories, make a card, prepare his favorite meal, wash his car, offer to help him with household projects and chores, participate in some of his favorite hobbies (such as fishing!), and most of all, tell him you love him. Happy Father’s Day everyone!