The origins of Father’s Day can be traced to a YMCA in Spokane, Washington. It was proposed as a holiday by Sonora Smart Dodd. She heard about Mother’s Day, and told her pastor that a similar holiday to honor fathers must be celebrated. Dodd was one of 6 children of Civil War vet William Jackson Smart, a single father.
Sonora Smart Dodd wanted to celebrated Father’s Day on June 5. Her pastor, however, couldn’t write a sermon in time so the holiday was pushed back to June 19, the third Sunday of the month. The first Father’s Day was held…and then that was it.
Father’s Day didn’t really catch on, and Dodd no longer had time to promote the event once she began attending the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1920s. Even in Spokane, the holiday faded into the background. But after she returned to Washington, Dodd began promoting the event again in the 1930s.
Her campaign gained national attention. Dodd courted trade groups like tie makers, pipe manufacturers and others who would benefit from the holiday. They helped her promote her cause.
No Such Thing as Bad Advertising
Cynics continued to meet the holiday with skepticism despite the promotional efforts. Because manufacturers and trade professionals promoted Father’s Day, many naysayers said it was just an attempt to cash in on the commercial success of Mother’s Day. The advertisers rolled with the punches, and continued to tout the holiday anyway. Some of the jokes and negative remarks made about Father’s Day by the press were even incorporated into the campaigns.
In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson officially declared that Father’s Day would be celebrated on the third Sunday in June. It was signed into law 6 years later by Richard Nixon. A bill to make Father’s Day official was first introduced to Congress in 1913.
The Spelling Controversy
When Sonora Smart Dodd first petitioned to create Father’s Day, she spelled it Fathers’ Day with the apostrophe after the S. But when the holiday was introduced to Congress as a bill, it was spelled Father’s Day with the apostrophe before the S. When the holiday was finally signed into law, it was still spelled this way. The official spelling is still Father’s Day, but the holiday’s original founder wanted it spelled Fathers’ Day. Now, the holiday can be spelled either way to be technically correct.
Either way you spell it, no matter how you celebrate it, this holiday is all about Dad. So celebrate yours, and pay tribute to this American holiday.