Letter - A history of Father's DayArkansas native Sonora Louise Smart Dodd was 27 years old when she heard a sermon in her Spokane, Washington church about Mother’s day in 1909. She believed there should be an equivalent American holiday to honor fathers.
To the editor:
Arkansas native Sonora Louise Smart Dodd was 27 years old when she heard a sermon in her Spokane, Washington church about Mother’s day in 1909. She believed there should be an equivalent American holiday to honor fathers.
An early Father’s Day observance took place in Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5, 1908. This celebration was organized by Grace Golden Clayton, who wanted to celebrate the lives of the 210 fathers who perished in the Monongah Mining disaster on December 6, 1907, near Fairmont (a total of 362 miners had died).
It was Sonora Dodd, though, who began urging area churches to honor fathers each June, the month of her father’s birth, and encouraged the Spokane Ministerial Alliance to begin cooperatively honoring fathers. The alliance decided to initiate services honoring fathers on the third Sunday in June. Father’s Day was officially begun in area churches on June 19, 1910, with similar celebrations beginning to take hold in other areas of the country.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson traveled to Spokane and spoke at a Father’s Day service. Sonora Dodd persisted in working to see the day become a national holiday. However, it was not until 1966 that President Lyndon Johnson signed a Presidential Proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. Later, in 1972, President Richard M. Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June.
Sonora Dodd died in 1978 at the age of 96, with the satisfaction of knowing that she was responsible for getting Father’s Day established as a national observance in America. There is a monument recognizing her as the founder of Father’s Day in Spokane’s Riverfront Park. Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day, has its roots in America’s churches.