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The History of Father’s Day
With Father’s Day coming up, it’s the least we can do to look into the history of Father’s Day. A customary day for the celebration of fatherhood in Catholic Europe is known to date back to at least the Middle Ages, and it is observed on March 19th, as the feast day of Saint Joseph, who is referred to as the fatherly Nutritor Domini (“Nourisher of the Lord”) in Catholicism. This celebration was brought to the Americans by the Spanish and Portuguese, and in Latin America, Father’s Day is still celebrated on March 19th.
What about the history of Father’s Day in the United States? Well, There are two accounts of when the first organized Father’s Day was celebrated in the US. According to historians, the first Father’s Day was celebrated in Washington state on June 19, 1910.
A woman by the name of Sonora Smart Dodd came up with the idea of honoring and celebrating her father while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at church in 1909. She felt as though mothers were getting all the acclaim while fathers were equally deserving of a day of praise. Sonora’s dad William Smart, a veteran of the Civil War, was left a widower when his wife died while giving birth to their sixth child. He went on to raise the six children by himself on their small farm in Washington. To show her appreciation for his hard work and love, Sonora thought there should be a day to pay homage to him and other dads like him. She initially suggested June 5th, the anniversary of her father’s death to be the designated day to celebrate Father’s Day, but due to poor planning, the celebration in Spokane, Washington was deferred to the third Sunday in June.
The other story regarded as the start of the history of Father’s Day in America happened all the way on the other side of the country in Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5, 1908. Grace Golden Clayton suggested to the minister of the local Methodist church that they hold services to celebrate fathers after a deadly mine explosion killed 361 men.
While Father’s Day was celebrated locally in several communities across the country, unofficial support to make the celebration a national holiday began almost immediately. William Jennings Bryant was one of its first proponents. In 1924, President Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge recommended that Father’s Day become a national holiday. But no official action was taken. Then, four decades later in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson, through an executive order, designated the third Sunday in June as the official day to celebrate Father’s Day. However, it wasn’t until 1972, during the Nixon administration, that Father’s Day was officially recognized as a national holiday.
The History of Father’s Day