Betcha didn’t know that Father’s Day traces its roots to 1908 and 1910?
Enjoy a short Father’s Day history lesson!
Father’s Day is always celebrated on the third Sunday in June every year.
FATHER’S DAY HISTORY
Like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day has a history that goes beyond greeting cards.
The first known Father’s Day service occurred at the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South in Fairmont, West Virginia, on July 5, 1908, thanks to the efforts of Grace Golden Clayton. Mrs. Clayton had asked her pastor, Dr. R. Thomas Webb, if a Sunday service could be held to honor fathers. While missing her own dad, who had died in 1896, she especially wanted to have a service in remembrance of the over 200 fathers who had died in the Monongah mining explosion that had occurred a few miles south of Fairmont on December 6 of the previous year. (It was the worst mining disaster in U.S. history, killing more than 360 men and boys, and leaving about 1,000 children fatherless.) Although the Fairmont service was the first known to honor fathers, it did not turn into an annual event, nor was the idea promoted (a large July 4 celebration in Fairmont and a tragic young death from typhoid fever having taken over the news at the time).
Several other people across the nation had similar ideas throughout the years, but Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd is credited for being the one to popularize it, starting events that led to Father’s Day becoming a U.S. national holiday.
Her story began as she sat listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. Mrs. Dodd thought that it might be nice to honor fathers as well. Her father, William Smart, had raised his SIX children alone on his farm in Washington after his wife died giving birth to their sixth child.
Mrs. Dodd proposed to the Spokane Ministerial Association and the YMCA that they celebrate a “father’s day.” She chose the 5th of June because it was her father’s birthday.
The idea received strong support, but the good ministers of Spokane asked that the day be changed to give them extra time to prepare sermons on the unexplored subject of fathers.
The first Father’s Day in Spokane, Washington, was observed on June 19, 1910 (the third Sunday in June), and became an annual event there. Soon, other towns had their own celebrations.
In spite of widespread support, Father’s Day did not become a permanent national holiday for many years. The first bill was introduced in Congress in 1913, but in spite of encouragement by President Woodrow Wilson, it did not pass. In 1966, Lyndon Johnson issued a proclamation designating the third Sunday in June to honor fathers.
Finally, in 1972, when President Richard Nixon was president, Father’s Day was signed a law declaring that it be celebrated annually on the third Sunday in June. It has been an official, permanent national holiday ever since.
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