June 21, 2015 is Father’s Day in the United States. It was invented by Sonora Smart Dodd, whose single father, American Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, raised her and her five siblings. It was first celebrated on June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington, two years after the first Mother’s Day was celebrated in Grafton, West Virginia. But while Mother’s Day was proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, Father’s Day didn’t wasn’t recognized until 1966 when President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed it.
Read on for more about the history of Father’s Day:
1. It Has Its Roots in the Methodist Church
Sonora Smart Dodd was the daughter of Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, whose wife died in childbirth with her sixth child. William Smart took it upon himself to raise his large family near Spokane, Washington, and his strength doing it made Sonora an admirer of his. After learning about Ann and Anna Jarvis’ mission to make a Mother’s Day at a Methodist church sermon, Sonora got the idea for Father’s Day. According to UMC.org:
In 1909 in Spokane, Wash., Sonora Smart Dodd listened to a Mother’s Day sermon at Central Methodist Episcopal Church. Dodd’s own mother had died 11 years earlier, and her father had raised their six children alone. Dodd felt moved to honor her father, and fathers everywhere, with a special day as well.
She proposed her idea to local religious leaders, and gained wide acceptance. June 19, 1910, was designated as the first Father’s Day, and sermons honoring fathers were presented throughout the city.
However, the idea didn’t take hold as quickly as Mother’s Day did. The observance of Father’s Day faded in the 1920s.
2. LBJ Proclaimed the Holiday But Nixon Signed It
Father’s Day again became popular in the 1960s and in 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as “Father’s Day.” However, this did not cement the holiday into law until 1972 when President Nixon established a permanent national observance.
Sonora Smart Dodd was alive to see Father’s Day establishment and the honoring of her father. She died in 1974 at the age of 96.
3. The Date Varies By Country
While in the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Canada, China, France, Greece, and others, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June, it’s not like that everywhere in the world. However, because the United States created Father’s Day, it did set that precedence. Other dates its commonly held are March 19 and June 21.
Typical celebrations for Father’s Day include giving cards and other gifts to the paternal figure in the family.
4. Neckties Are the Most Common Gift
Neckties are the most common Father’s Day gift. According to The Holiday Spot’s “History and Tradition of Necktie”:
…neckties started appearing on the earliest Father’s Day greeting cards and retailers sniffed a golden opportunity in this, suggesting this as a great practical gift. And since then the Necktie has been the most popular Father’s Day Gift with children vying to gift the most beautiful and stylish tie to their dad every year. And gift sellers make the most of this traditional and emotional attachment by putting their workmanship to good use, infusing newer designs and introducing latest styles into the much loved neck cloth during Father’s Day.
5. Why Is It ‘Father’s Day’ & Not ‘Fathers’ Day?’
When Dodd first started promoting the holiday to get it established as a national holiday, she spelled it as “Fathers’ Day”, meaning fathers everywhere.
But when a first attempt of passing a bill by Congress for Dodd’s day was tried, it was misspelled as “Father’s Day.” This precedence was retained for every attempt of passing the bill until Nixon finally established it.
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