Father’s Day: More than 60 years in the making

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Mothers are where fathers come from, but where does Father’s Day come from?

The short answer to that question is: a woman, of course. Her name was Sonora Dodd.

Sonora Louise Smart Dodd was the only daughter to farmer William Jackson Smart, who served as a sergeant during the American Civil War, and his wife Ellen Victoria Cheek Smart.

When Dodd was 16 years old, her mother died during childbirth, leaving her to help her now single father raise five brothers.

Then in 1909, a year after Mother’s Day became an official holiday in the US, Dodd attended a service honouring the celebration.

Petition to honour fathers everywhere

As she held her own father in high esteem, she petitioned for a holiday in honour of fathers, but her proposal was not well-received by the public.

She proceeded to raise a proposal with the Spokane Ministerial Alliance, that the holiday be celebrated on her father’s birthday of June 5.

The Alliance chose to defer the celebrations to the third Sunday in June instead because the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons.

Hence, on June 19, 1910, a Father’s Day celebration was held at the YMCA in Spokane, Washington.

Unfortunately, the idea of Father’s Day faded into obscurity in the 1920s as Dodd was studying in the Art Institute of Chicago.

She returned to Spokane in the 1930s with the intent of raising awareness about the celebration at a national level.

She was supported by industries that would profit off the celebration, such as manufacturers and retailers.

By 1938, she had the help of the Father’s Day Council to organise the holiday’s commercial promotion.

Because Americans resisted the celebration for decades as they refused to fall prey to the marketing tactics of merchants, it took 33 more years for the holiday to be acknowledged at the national level.

Father’s Day may also have gained traction between the 60s to the 80s thanks to feminists, who wanted spouses to have equality in the delegation of domestic duties.

Because of this, men were sharing household chores more evenly.

At last, under President Richard Nixon, Father’s Day was made official in 1972. The former president called upon all government buildings to raise the American flag in observance of the day.

Dodd was honoured at Expo ’74, the World’s Fair, in Spokane in 1974. She died four years later at the age of 96, and was buried in Greenwood Memorial Terrace in Spokane.

Other nations, including Malaysia, eventually followed in adopting this holiday, with a large number of them designating it on the third Sunday in June.