History of Fathers Day - The Origins & Why Do We Celebrate It

fun May 28, 2020
History of Fathers Day

Not everyone accepted Father’s Day when it was first proposed to the public. In fact, it only became a national holiday many years after its proposition.

Based on American history, you would think that the country would find it highly acceptable to celebrate a holiday recognizing men. This is especially true since men dominated U.S. society in the early 20th century. Additionally, a day that recognizes the importance of fathers within the family is already part of an ancient tradition.

So, what was the issue that caused this special day to become a hotly contested debate?

The main problem was that men thought the celebration of Mother’s Day (which came first) was too effeminate for their liking. In fact, President Woodrow Wilson even stated in 1914 that Mother’s Day was a way to recognize the tender and gentle mothers of America.

One writer on the history of Father’s Day even wrote that men at the time ridiculed the idea. They scoffed at the thought of a holiday that attempted to domesticate manliness through gift and flower-giving. They also believed that such holidays were just a way for businesses to earn more money – particularly when the father himself is the one who would pay.

Over the years, this sentiment changed because of the actions of several individuals.

The Origins of Father’s Day

There are two main stories of how the first Father’s Day came to be. According to some people, the first time it was celebrated was on June 19, 1910, in Washington State.

While listening to a sermon at church during Mother’s Day in 1909, a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd thought it would be a great idea to honor and celebrate the achievements of her father. Sonora thought that mothers were getting all of the attention while fathers equally deserved the right to have a day that honored them.

She felt this way because her father was a very honorable man. A veteran of the U.S. Civil War, William Smart became a widower when his wife passed away during childbirth. William was left to raise six kids all by himself on a small farm.

Sonora wanted to show her appreciation for the love and hard work her father gave to his children. She believed that there should also be a day that paid homage to fathers just like him.

At first, Sonora suggested that the 5th of June, her father’s death anniversary, should be designated as the day to celebrate Father’s Day. After some changes, the celebration in Spokane, Washington was moved to the third Sunday of that month.

The second story of the first celebration of Father’s Day in America happened at Fairmont, West Virginia. On July 5, 1908, Grace Golden Clayton suggested to the local church that they should hold services to commemorate the fathers who died in a fatal mine explosion nearby.

Although Father’s Day had been celebrated in local communities throughout the nation, unofficial support for it grew and many wanted to make it a national holiday. One of the stalwart supporters of this was William Jennings Bryant.

By the year 1924, President Calvin Coolidge suggested that Father’s Day should become a national holiday. However, no official action was made during his administration.

In 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson designated the third Sunday of June as the official date to celebrate Father’s Day. However, it only became officially recognized as a national holiday in 1972, during President Nixon’s term.

What Was the Father’s Day Controversy?

A movement rose up during the 1920s and 1930s to get rid of both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and simply celebrate a single holiday instead, Parent’s Day. Pro-Parent’s Day activists rallied each year during Mother’s Day as a public reminder that both parents should be loved and respected.

However, the Great Depression became an obstacle to the effort to de-commercialize and combine the two holidays. Retailers struggled to make Father’s Day a sort of “second Christmas” for men. They even promoted many goods like hats, neckties, golf clubs, pipes, and tobacco.

As World War II started, advertisers began arguing that Father’s Day was a way to pay respects to American troops while showing support for the war effort.

Eventually, the retailers and advertisers succeeded in making Father’s Day one of the most popular events of the year. It has become so popular that it is estimated that Americans alone spend more than a billion dollars every year to purchase gifts during Father’s Day.

Why Do We Celebrate Father’s Day?

Despite the issues surrounding the history of Father’s Day, awareness of the importance of fathers grew in American society.

During the 1900s, fathers were not given enough credit for the influence they had on children. Even the psychological studies at that time were primarily focused on mothers. By the 1970s, researchers began realizing the role that fathers played as part of growing up.

What they learned was that children who had involved fathers while growing up were more likely to have a good balance of intellectual, social, and emotional capabilities. Even as they faced problems, these kids were able to regulate their feelings and behavior better compared to those who had absent fathers.

Additionally, children who had absent fathers had a higher probability of engaging in risky activities. That is why there has been a push to include male teachers in elementary schools.

Although mothers have long been recognized as the main caretakers of the household, times are beginning to change. More and more women are getting opportunities at work and fathers are becoming more involved in raising their children.

Nowadays, fathers are hard workers and they do this to take care of the needs of their families. They also help with household chores and spend more time with their kids.


Father’s Day is one of the most special days around the world and there are many ways to celebrate it with our fathers.

We can buy our fathers gifts, take them out to watch their favorite sport, or even simply give them a card to show them how grateful we are for having them around.

Many families celebrate Father’s Day by hosting a cookout. If you don’t live with your close family, you can join a block party to celebrate fathers in your neighborhood.

Whatever you have planned for Father’s Day, it’s always important to honor the fathers we know who have influenced us throughout our lives.

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