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The first national Father’s Day was commemorated on June 9, 1910, in Washington state. Even though it was celebrated in 1910, it did not become a national holiday until 1972. This was 58 years after Mother’s Day was made an official holiday by President Woodrow Wilson.
Mother’s Day was the inspiration for Father’s Day, even though Mother’s Day has a very different origin behind it from the Civil War.
The campaign to commemorate fathers did not come with the same eagerness because some believe that fathers do not have the same appeal as mothers do.
Father’s Day in West Virginia
On July 5, 1908, a church in West Virginia hosted the first national event in honor of fathers specifically. A memorial sermon remembering 362 men that had died during explosions at the Monongah Fairmont Coal Company was done as a one-time celebration and not a yearly event.
The following year, a woman from Spokane, Washington, Sonora Smart Dodd, attempted to establish an official holiday similar to Mother’s Day, but for fathers. She went to the YMCA, shopkeepers, government officials, and local churches in an attempt to get support for her thoughts. Dodd was successful and the state commemorated the first statewide Father’s Day.
Father’s Day spread slowly. In 1916, President Wilson celebrated the day using telegraph communications to unfurl a flag in Spokane while he was in Washington, D.C. President Calvin Coolidge pushed state governments to look over Father’s Day.
Father’s Day Orders
President Lyndon Johnson signed an order in 1966 that made Father’s Day commemorated on the third Sunday in June.
In 1972, Congress under President Richard Nixon passed an order that officiated Father’s Day as a national holiday. Sonora passed away six years later at the age of 96.
In different counties, dads are celebrated on St. Joseph’s Day, a Catholic holiday that occurs annually on March 19. This happens mostly in Latin America. In Europe, the U.S., and other major countries, the holiday is celebrated on the third Sunday in June. However, Australia, Fiji, and New Zealand celebrate on the first Sunday in September. This year in the U.S., the holiday will share a date with Juneteenth — both will be on June 19.
The U.S. Father’s Day History
In the history of the U.S., people think that holidays that recognize men are acceptable considering men were dominant in society in the earlier 20th century. In addition, a time that can recognize the roles that fathers play in families is an older tradition. History books mention Southern European tradition from 1508.
Multiple men went on to disdain the day. A historian wrote that they reacted with a scoff to the sentiment of the holiday’s attempt to tame masculinity by giving gifts and flowers or they ridiculed the proliferation of the holiday as an advertising trick to sell more merchandise. It was viewed as a “Hallmark Holiday.”
In the 1920s and 1930s, a motion to get bring both Mother’s and Father’s Day into one holiday arose. It was to be called Parent’s Day and would take place on Mother’s Day. This was brought up by a Pro-Parent’s Day group and it rallied in Central Park in New York City. They stated that both mothers and fathers should be honored together.
Written by Marrissa Kay
Edited by Sheena Robertson
Almanac: The Forgotten History of Father’s Day; by Aurelia C. Scott
Reader’s Digest: When Is Father’s Day—And Why Do We Celebrate It?; by Chloë Nannestad and Kaitlyn Chamberlin
History: Father’s Day 2022