Sunday, June 19, is Father’s Day. While the amount spent on Father’s Day is several million less than that spent on Mother’s Day, the importance of the holiday has grown tremendously.
The beginnings of the holiday in the United States trace back to July 5, 1908, when a West Virginia pastor offered a Sunday sermon in memory of the 362 men who had died in an explosion at the Fairmont Coal Co. mines in Monongah. It was a one-time commemoration and not an annual holiday.
The effort truly began in 1910 in Spokane, Washington, when 27-year-old Sonora Dodd proposed a day to honor fathers.
Dodd thought about how grateful she was for her father, William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran, who raised her when her mother died in childbirth. Dodd’s idea for Father’s Day mirrored Mother’s Day but would be celebrated in June — her dad’s birthday month.
Her father had raised a newborn and five other children as well.
The Spokane Ministerial Association and the local Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) supported Dodd’s cause, and Spokane celebrated its first Father’s Day on June 19, 1910.
Presidents Woodrow Wilson, in 1916, and Calvin Coolidge, in 1924, supported a national Father’s Day to “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.”
In the 1920s and 1930s, a movement arose to scrap Mother’s Day and Father’s Day altogether in favor of a single holiday, Parents’ Day. Every year on Mother’s Day, pro-Parents’ Day groups rallied in New York City’s Central Park to remind everyone “that both parents should be loved and respected together.”
The Depression derailed the effort to combine and de-commercialize the holidays. Struggling retailers and advertisers redoubled their efforts to make Father’s Day a “second Christmas” for men, promoting goods such as neckties, hats, socks, pipes, tobacco, golf clubs and other sporting goods and greeting cards.
When World War II began, advertisers began to argue that celebrating Father’s Day was a way to honor American troops and support the war effort. By the end of the war, Father’s Day may not have been a federal holiday, but it was a national institution.
It took almost 60 years for Dodd’s proposal to be instituted as a national observance of fathers.
President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day in 1966. Then, in 1972, President Richard Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father’s Day to be held on the third Sunday of June.
Dodd was honored for her contribution at the World’s Fair in Spokane in 1974. Dodd died in 1978 at 96.
Today, more than 214,000 men are stay-at-home dads. Baby care and household chores in addition to full-time jobs have many dads working harder than ever.
Here are some fun facts about Father’s Day:
• Census data shows there are more than 70.1 million dads in the U.S. About a third of them are married with kids under 18;
• Two million fathers are single;
• Spending on Father’s Day will reach about $12.7 billion this year, with the average person spending about $115.57 on presents. That’s about $2 more than last year’s average;
• Father’s Day is the fourth-biggest day for sending greeting cards, after Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, according to the Greeting Card Association; and
• About 20 percent of Father’s Day cards are bought for husbands.