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History of Father’s Day

Dear Friends:

Last month we featured a story we called "history of Mother’s Day" which was a huge hit (if you missed it here's a link »). So this month it is only appropriate to give the guys equal time...

Sonora Dodd, of Washington, was one of the first people who had the idea of a "father's day." She thought of the concept of Father's Day while listening to a Mother's Day sermon in 1909.

Sonora wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart, who was a Civil War veteran and widowed when his wife died while giving birth to their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his other five children by himself on a rural farm in eastern Washington State.

After Sonora became an adult, she realized the selflessness her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent. Her father made all the parental sacrifices and was, in the eyes of his daughter, a courageous, selfless, and loving man. Sonora's father was born in June, so she chose to hold the first Father's Day celebration in Spokane, Washington on June 19, 1910.

Even before Dodd, however, the idea of observing a day in honor of fathers was promoted. Dr. Robert Webb conducted what is believed as the first Father's Day service at the Central Church of Fairmont, West Virginia in 1908. It was Dodd's efforts, however, that eventually led to a national observance.

President Calvin Coolidge, in 1924, supported the idea of a national Father's Day. Then in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father's Day, but for only one year. On April 24, 1972, President Richard Nixon signed into law a permanent Father’s Day to be observed on the third Sunday in June, and assured its recognition as a Presidential Proclamation. Today Father’s Day is as important as Mother’s Day.

Louise Dawson

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