Father’s Day was inaugurated in the United States in the early 20th century to complement Mother’s Day in celebrating fatherhood and male parenting.
After the success obtained by Anna Jarvis with the promotion of Mother’s Day in the US, some wanted to create similar holidays for other family members, and Father’s Day was the choice most likely to succeed. There were other persons in the US who independently thought of “Father’s Day”, but the credit for the modern holiday is often given to Sonora Dodd who was the driving force behind its establishment.
Father’s Day was founded in Spokane, Washington at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas. Its first celebration was in the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910.Her father, the Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there.
After hearing a sermon about Jarvis’ Mother’s Day in 1909, she told her
pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them.Although she initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, the
pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the
celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.
It did not have much success initially. In the 1920s, Dodd stopped promoting the celebration because she was studying in the Art Institute of Chicago, and it faded into relative obscurity, even in Spokane In the 1930s Dodd returned to Spokane and started promoting the celebration again, raising awareness at a national level.
She had the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the
holiday, for example the manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes, and any
traditional present to fathers. Since 1938 she had the help of the Father’s Day Council, founded by the
New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize
the commercial promotion.
Americans resisted the holiday during a few decades, perceiving it as
just an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of
Mother’s Day, and newspapers frequently featured cynical and sarcastic
attacks and jokes.
But the trade groups did not give up: they kept promoting it and even
incorporated the jokes into their adverts, and they eventually
By the mid-1980s the Father’s Council wrote that “(…) [Father’s Day]
has become a Second Christmas for all the men’s gift-oriented
A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak in a Father’s Day celebration and wanted to make it official, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become commercialized. US President Calvin Coolidge recommended in 1924 that the day be observed by the nation, but stopped short of issuing a national proclamation. Two earlier attempts to formally recognize the holiday had been defeated by Congress. In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith
wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years
while honoring mothers, thus “[singling] out just one of our two
parents”. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.
In addition to Father’s Day, International Men’s Day is celebrated in many countries on November 19 for men and boys who are not fathers.