One Father's Day four years ago my oldest son, Keagan, gave me the best gift I could ever receive – his birth.
Almost everyone has access to the Internet now, and information is just a few keyboard clicks — or touch screen touches — away, but in case you haven't looked up the history of Father's Day, it's rather interesting. To be honest, I didn't know it myself until a co-worker told me the other day.
In 1909, in Spokane, Wash., a lady by the name of Sonora Dodd heard a sermon about the then on-going campaign to make Mother's Day a recognized holiday. Dodd, however, lost her mother when she was 16 and her father finished raising her and her five brothers and sisters. Dodd believed that fathers should have a day as well.
Dodd immediately took up the campaign for dads, and that first year wanted the celebration of fatherhood to be held on her own dad's birthday, June 5. However, there wasn't enough time to prepare that year, and so it was moved to the third Sunday in June. Dodd continued to drum up support for a day for dads, and the very next year, 1910, Washington State became the first state to officially observe Father's Day, thanks to Dodd's efforts.
Meanwhile, likely unbeknownst to Dodd, other individuals began working on the Father's Day project at around the same time and local observances were held around the country. In fact, Lions Club International member Harry Dodd later claimed that he came up with the idea of a federally recognized Father's Day in 1915 and suggested it be the third Sunday of June because that was his birthday. Some people today still credit him as the holiday's originator.
At any rate, neither Dodd nor others initially had much luck in getting Father's Day national recognition.
A bill was introduced to the U.S. Congress as early as 1913 to make Father's Day a national holiday, but Congress said no. They approved Mother's Day, however, the following year. President Woodrow Wilson argued for it in 1916, but Congress still declined. In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge suggested that Americans observe Father's Day, but stopped short of issuing a proclamation. Meanwhile, Congress gave the thumbs down to Father's Day two more times. Their reason? They thought if they made it a national holiday Father's Day would simply be commercialized — and as it turned out they were kind of right.
Dodd gave up for a while, but then renewed her efforts in the 1930s, this time enlisting the help of trade groups by appealing to the commercial value of a holiday for dads. Dodd and her new allies – men's retailers – began actively promoting Father's Day and shrugged off public criticism that they were only out to make a profit. Although many men didn't warm up to the observance at first, thinking it somewhat unmanly to have a day set aside for them like the mothers had, Father's Day started to become an unofficially observed holiday anyway, on the third Sunday in June.
At the same time there was talk of creating a Parents Day, doing away with Mother's Day and Father's Day altogether. The May 7, 1930, edition of the Neosho Daily Democrat carried a news piece about national confectioners (candymakers) trying to “ascertain the strength of the movement to consolidate 'Mothers' Day and 'Fathers Day' in a single anniversary, to be called "'Parents' Day.'”
“The proponents of a joint celebration point out that both parents are essential to a happy home and that they should not be divorced by separate days of honor,” the article reads. “The opponents insist that each is important enough to have his or her own anniversary.” The article went on to quote the president of the National Confectioners Association as saying that they had not taken sides because a box of candy addressed to either mom or dad is likely to be shared by both anyway.
The Parents Day question eventually went away, largely because the Great Depression caused struggling retailers to redouble their efforts in commercializing both Mother's Day, which was an official holiday, Father's Day, which was not. When America entered World War II, Father's Day was promoted in some retail markets as a way to show support for the troops (American manhood and all that). But it still wasn't a federal holiday.
In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued a proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. However, it didn't become a permanent federal holiday until President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972 — 58 years after the legal establishment of Mother's Day.
Dads always have to wait, don't they?