Before becoming official in 1914, Mother’s Day was already recognized by a good many people, and celebrated around the country. At one such a celebration, the idea for Father’s Day was born. Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington was sitting in a church attending a service to recognize mothers when the thought of Father’s Day struck her. She was the daughter of William Smart, a father of six, an American Civil War veteran, and a widower. Just like today, being a single parent wasn’t a walk in the park, which is why Sonora felt it was royally unfair that only mothers were honored with a day of recognition. Thus, she tried to establish its equivalent for male parents.
Sonora began talking to people and organizations throughout the state of Washington to gain momentum for Father’s Day and she was successful (after all, she had a point) and the nation’s first state-wide Father’s Day celebration was held in Washington State on July 19, 1910.
It didn’t exactly spread like wildfire, but the holiday did in fact spread. By 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged other states to celebrate, but the encouragement was met with a fair amount of disdain. Basically, fathers didn’t feel they should dumb down their manliness with overly sentimental gifts (which they would most likely have to pay for).
In the late 20s and early 30s, people campaigned for a single holiday that recognized both parents, but it came at a bad time for retailers. Feeling the full effects of the Great Depression, stores pushed for the holidays to remain separate in an attempt to fuel sales. When the economy became more stable again, World War II broke out, and the celebration of Father’s Day was seen as a way for people at home to support the troops. By the end of the war in 1945, Father’s Day wasn’t about to disappear any time soon.
But it still wasn’t official. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first proclamation honoring fathers, designating the 3rd Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Then, six years later, Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday.
And the woman who started it all? Well, she got to see her dream come true. Sonora Smart Dodd passed away four years later in 1978 at the age of ninety-six.