Tomorrow, Sunday, June 17, 2018, fathers around the nation will be celebrated for their contribution to rearing children into adulthood. This traditional celebration is over one hundred years old and it officially began on June 19, 1910. A young woman by the name of Sonora Louise Smart Dodd from Spokane, Washington, was in church one morning in 1909, listening to her pastor preached a Mother’s Day Sermon. She thought about her father, William Jackson Smart, a civil war veteran. When Sonora was born, her mother died in childbirth at the age of 16. Her father stepped up to the plate and raised her and five older siblings with love, affection and discipline.
Inspired by Anna Jarvis’ struggle to promote Mother’s Day, Ms. Dodd began a rigorous campaign to set aside a day to celebrate fathers. She was inspired by her loving father, who never married while he was raising her and her older siblings. She loved her father and had a lot of respect for him. She believed other fathers like him in the community and around the nation should be celebrated. Her goal was to create a day to celebrate fatherhood, including the rewards and struggles men embraced when taking on the task of rearing children. She envisioned a day filled with accolades, appreciation and celebration.
So she contacted local organizations in her community and pitched her idea. The Spokane Association and the local Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) jumped on board and supported Ms. Dodd’s cause. As a result, the City of Spokane celebrated its first Father’s Day on June 19, 1910.
Soon the idea gained popularity throughout the nation, eventually getting the attention of President Woodrow Wilson who approved the celebration in 1916. When Calvin Coolidge became president, he made it a national celebration in 1924. His hope was for fathers to recognize the bond they have with their children and to impress upon them the importance of their obligations. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day and later in 1972, President Richard Nixon made Father’s Day a permanent national observance to be held on the third Sunday of June. Sonora Smart Dodd accomplished her goal in honoring her father as well as fathers like him around the nation. Later, she was honored at the World’ s Fair in Spokane, Washington in 1974 for her contribution to the Father’s Day Celebration as we know it. Ms. Dodd lived to the ripe old age of 96 and she died peaceably at home in 1978. Happy Father’s Day Everyone!