With Father’s Day coming up on June 16, the inevitable wave of anti-male activism will rear its ugly head once again, as they deem the holiday sexist and unnecessary.
Many radical feminists, however, are likely unaware of the origins of Father’s Day. They might be surprised to learn that the holiday was founded by a woman – and her reason why is a touching and ironic lesson on the importance of fathers in our society.
In recent years, feminists have pushed to end Father’s Day, insisting it be replaced with “Special Persons Day” instead. The movement has failed to gain wide support.
The very first celebration of Father’s Day was in 1910, but it wouldn’t become an official holiday until 1972, when President Richard Nixon signed a bill to make it official.
The first Father’s Day in 1910 was the brainchild of Sonora Smart Dodd, who felt the new Mother’s Day holiday should be balanced out with a day for dads as well. Mother’s Day, the idea of Anna Jarvis, was first celebrated in 1908.
Dodd had a good reason to honor fathers. When she was just 16 years old, in 1898, her mother, Ellen Victoria Cheek Smart, died during childbirth.
Now left motherless, Dodd and her five brothers were raised by their father, William Jackson Smart. The widower, who was a Civil War veteran, did his best to give his children a full and happy life, despite being a single father.
Dodd was so grateful for the sacrifices her father made for them, she fought to have a day that would honor all fathers, as a companion holiday to Mother’s Day.
In 1909, while attending church in Spokane, Washington, Dodd interrupted a Mother’s Day sermon to ask why fathers weren’t being honored with their own day as well.
In a 1972 interview, she recounted what she asked her priest that day. “I liked everything you said about motherhood, however, don’t you think fathers deserve a place in the sun too,” she asked the priest.
That next year, Dodd, now married and a mother to a son, organized the very first Father’s Day. With the help of the Spokane Ministerial Association and the local YMCA, she hoped to hold Father’s Day on June 5, her father’s birthday. Because of time constraints, however, the celebration was moved to June 19.
That day, participating churches honored fathers with speeches, and dads were given roses. The tradition quickly spread across the state of Washington, but it took time for it to become a national celebration.
While Mother’s Day became a national holiday in 1914, Father’s Day was not officially recognized until 1972, even though President Woodrow Wilson endorsed the celebration as early as 1913.
Another woman, Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, introduced a bill in 1957 to make Father’s Day a national holiday. “Either we honor both our parents, mother and father, or let us desist from honoring either one,” she said at the time. “But to single out just one of our two parents and omit the other is the most grievous insult imaginable.”
The bill, however, did not make it through both houses of Congress.
In 1966, Rep. Walt Horan once again tried to make Father’s Day a national holiday, and even told the story of Dodd’s father on the House Floor. His efforts, though they fell short initially, kickstarted the movement to make it official.
President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first proclamation to celebrate Father’s Day on the third Sunday in June, and on April 24, 1972, President Richard Nixon officially made it a national holiday.
Sonora Smart Dodd died in 1978 at the age of 96, but lived long enough to see her dream of honoring her father, and all fathers, become a reality. She became a children’s book author, a sculptor, and a business owner, but her gravestone recognizes her with the words “Founder of Father’s Day.”
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