The History of Father’s Day

By Cindy Eslinger

Did you know there are more than 70 million fathers in the United States?  Honoring them is traditionally celebrated in June every year.   And because inquiring minds want to know.....we decided to delve into how this day became a nationally celebrated holiday.

Father's Day is a complement of Mother's Day and was established in the early 20th century being celebrated on the third Sunday in June. It is nationally recognized largely due to the efforts of Sonora Dodd of Spokane Washington. In 1910, Sonora attended a Mother's Day celebration at her church and while reflecting on the sermon commemorating mothers, she remembered her father's valiant efforts in raising her and her five siblings on his own after their mother died in childbirth. That day was the turning point for Sonora in her plight for creating a holiday for honoring fathers.

Her strategic efforts included working with businesses that would profit from an all-male holiday such as men's clothing stores and tobacco companies.  However, the campaign met with some obstacles such as one florist explaining, “Fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.”   Surprisingly, many men continued to disdain the idea of Father's Day.  As one historian writes, they “scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products–often paid for by the father himself.” 

Sonora pushed hard to get everyone on board for this holiday. President Woodrow Wilson spoke in 1916 voicing his support of the holiday; however, once again her wish was denied because Congress refused to pass the bill largely due to its overly commercial nature.  It was not until 1957 that a Senator from Maine, Margaret Chase Smith, asserted that it was unfair to honor mothers and not fathers that Sonora's wish was finally gaining some support.  Later President Lyndon Johnson finally issued a proclamation in 1966 and President Richard Nixon made the holiday official in 1972.

A quote by Clarence Budington Kelland (of his father) supports the theory that children learn by what they see and not always by what they're told. He said, “He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and he let me watch him do it.”  A father's love and support of his child is the greatest gift any father can give.  Perhaps PTM can assist you in becoming the father you always wanted to be.

Ephesians 6:4
Colossians 3:21