'Mother of Father's Day' introduced holiday 110 years ago

Though Father's Day was first observed in 1910, it wouldn't be formally recognized by federal law for another 62 years. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Though Father's Day was first observed in 1910, it wouldn't be formally recognized by federal law for another 62 years. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

June 19 (UPI) -- Millions of American fathers will be honored and celebrated on Sunday, but Friday marks 110 years since it was first observed in the United States.

The first, but unofficial, celebration was held for the first time at a YMCA in Spokane, Wash., on June 19, 1910, after a campaign by 28-year-old resident Sonora Smart Dodd for the city to institute a holiday honoring fathers. She first conceived of the idea during a Mother's Day sermon a year earlier.


Dodd, now known as the "Mother of Father's Day," and five siblings were raised by a single father -- civil war veteran Willam Jackson Smart -- after their mother died during childbirth.

The holiday's appearance in late June arose from a request by Dodd that the city of Spokane recognize an event that would have pastors deliver sermons to honor fathers on his birthday, June 5. City officials, however, moved the date back to June 19 to allow the pastors time to prepare the sermons, and the date has been in the third week of the month ever since.

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In addition to the sermons at the first celebration, residents of Spokane distributed roses to fathers at church services to honor their fathers -- red roses for those whose fathers were still living and white roses to honor those who'd died.


The inaugural ceremony echoed an attempt to honor fathers two years earlier, following the first Mother's Day in 1908, when a West Virginia church held a memorial event for 250 fathers who'd died in the 1907 Monongah mine disaster.

Father's Day celebrations spread to other parts of the Pacific Northwest in the early 1910s, with the Portland Oregonian also suggesting the holiday in 1911. The idea later sprung up in other parts of the nation, with an unsuccessfully proposal in Chicago and a member of Lions Clubs International proposing the idea of a Father's Day on his birthday in the third Sunday in June four years later.

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President Woodrow Wilson attended one of the Father's Day celebrations in Spokane in 1916, and proposed that it be recognized as a federal holiday. The 28th president, however, faced resistance from Congress and President Calvin Coolidge also later suggested in 1924 that it be celebrated nationwide, but didn't issue a presidential declaration.

Dodd continued her event in Spokane until the 1920s, when she left to study at the Art Institute of Chicago. As the observation began to fade in popularity, she raised awareness for her holiday upon her return to Spokane in the 1930s.


She later joined with the Father's Day Council, which was founded by New York Associated men's wear retailers, to advocate for the holiday to be recognized nationwide -- and was recognized at the 1940 New York World's Fair as the founder of Father's Day.

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It wasn't until 1966 that President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation to recognize Father's Day -- and then 1972 when President Richard Nixon made it a permanent national holiday when he signed the proclamation into law.

Dodd was honored at the 1974 World's Fair, which was staged in Spokane, and died four years later at the age of 96.

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Jay-Z (R) arrives on the field with his and Beyoncé's daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, before Super Bowl LIV in Miami on February 2, 2020. He also has a set of twins with Beyoncé named Rumi Carter and Sir Carter. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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