We are late into June, and the warmest summer months are quickly approaching. There is also the anticipation of Father’s Day, where get to celebrate the men who raise us, love us and teach us important lessons that we will remember for the rest of our lives. Just as we did for Mother’s Day this year, we wanted to take a journey back to discover where, why and when the tradition of Father’s Day came to be.
The History of Father’s Day
In 1908, a church in West Virginia sponsored the country’s first day to honour fathers. The occasion was a Sunday sermon in memory of the 362 men who had died in the previous December’s explosions at the Fairmont Coal Company mines in Monongah, but it was a one-time commemoration and not an annual holiday.
The following year, Sonora Smart Dodd, was attending one of the first official Mother’s Day services in 1909 at her church in Spokane, Washington, when she had an epiphany—if mothers deserved a day in honor of their loving service, why not fathers?
Dodd had been raised by a single father. When she was 16, her mother Ellen died, leaving her father as a single parent to Sonora and her five younger brothers. By Dodd’s account, he performed flawlessly. “I remember everything about him,” Dodd said many years later to the Spokane Daily Chronicle. “He was both father and mother to me and my brothers and sisters.”
The next year, Dodd tried to establish an official equivalent to Mother’s Day for male parents. She lobbied around town, visiting local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to drum up support for her idea. Her efforts paid off: Washington State celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on June 19, 1910.
But the campaign faced its share of hardship. Across the nation, Father’s Day was not met with the same enthusiasm as Mother’s Day–perhaps because, as one florist explained, “fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.”
Slowly but surely, the holiday gradually gained acceptance and spread. In 1916, President Wilson honored the day by using telegraph signals to unfurl a flag in Spokane when he pressed a button in Washington, D.C. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day. Finally, in 1972–58 years after President Woodrow Wilson made Father’s Day official–the day honoring fathers became a nationwide holiday observed on the third Sunday of June in the United States.
Today, the day honoring fathers is celebrated across North America on the third Sunday of June: Father’s Day 2021 occurs on June 20.