How we came to celebrate Father’s Day

The tradition of celebrating Father's Day originated in the last century.

There are several people who are credited with promoting the cause of Father's Day; however there is a general acceptance that Sonora Louise Smart Dodd started the tradition.

A devoted daughter from Spokane, Washington, Ms Dodd came up with the idea of Father’s Day when she heard a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. She was 27 at the time and she began to realise how hard it must have been for her father to bring up herself and her five siblings all on his own. Sonora’s mother died during childbirth, when Sonora was only 16 years of age. Sonora's father, a Civil War veteran by the name of William Jackson Smart, raised six children, including the newborn, on his own. While Sonora was listening to the sermon devoted entirely to mothers, she started to feel the need to celebrate and appreciate fathers in a similar way to mothers.

Sonora's began petitioning for the cause of Father's Day. It all began to work out when Spokane celebrated its first Father's Day on June 19 1910 with the support of Spokane Ministerial Association and the local Young Men's Christian Association. To pay tribute to her loving father, Sonora wished that Father's Day be celebrated on her father's birthday, June 5, but unfortunately there was not enough time for preparation and the day came to be celebrated on the third Sunday in June.

The noble idea of celebrating Father's Day became quite popular in the US, so much that President Woodrow Wilson approved of the festival in 1916. President Calvin Coolidge too supported the idea, but it was President Lyndon Johnson who signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father's Day in 1966. Then in 1972 President Richard Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father's Day to be held on the third Sunday of June.

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