The History of Father’s Day in America
Funnily enough, dads have a woman to thank for their annual celebration.
America celebrated its first Father’s Day back in 1910, though it took a 1972 proclamation from President Richard Nixon for it to become an official national holiday.
Despite Nixon’s final stamp of approval, credit for the invention of Father’s Day lies with a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd.
Dodd, of Spokane, Washington, was one of six children raised by a widower, a Civil War veteran who lost his wife in childbirth. According to the History Channel, Dodd worked hard to establish an official equivalent to Mother’s Day for male parents. After lobbying local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers, and government officials, she achieved her goal, and Washington State celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on June 19, 1910.
Observance of the holiday spread slowly from there. In 1916—two years after he passed a Mother’s Day resolution—President Wilson paid tribute to Spokane’s Father’s Day celebrations from Washington, DC. Eight years later, President Coolidge took things a step further by pushing state governments to introduce Father’s Day.
Father’s Day picked up significant momentum throughout the 60s and early 70s as the feminist movement gained traction, and men began sharing household chores more evenly. As Time notes, it “got stranger that women were celebrated in a way that fathers weren’t yet.”
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On April 24, 1972, Nixon signed into law a measure declaring the third Sunday of June be observed as Father’s Day. Dodd, who is officially recognized as the founder of Father’s Day, died six years later.
Today, thanks in large part to Dodd, Father’s Day is celebrated in 110 nations.