Our History and the Christian Connection
In 1909 John and Sonora Dodd attended the Mother’s Day service (http://diduno.info/mothers-day/) at their church. As Sonora listened to the sermon and heard the virtues of Mothers and motherhood from the Bible, her mind went back to her childhood. She thought how important fathers are in raising children and she thought of the notion of Father’s Day.
Sonora’s father William, a Civil War veteran, lost his wife as she gave birth to a sixth child. Sonora was only sixteen at the time, the eldest, and much of the role to raise her five brothers fell on her shoulders.
Through the difficult years following her mother’s death Sonora watched her father care for the six children with love and devotion and saw him makes sacrifices in order to give them all better lives.
After the Mother’s Day service in 1909, she felt inspired to campaign for equal recognition of fathers. In 1910 Sonora approached the Spokane Ministerial Alliance and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) to establish Father’s Day as a holiday in the same fashion as Mother’s Day. Due to the support of these organisations, and Sonora’s dedication to the cause, the first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910.
Sonora’s Father’s Day concept started gaining attention when it was reported on in the June 6, 1910 edition of the Spokane Chronicle. The article quoted from Sonora’s petition:
“A Fathers’ Day would call attention to such constructive teachings from the pulpit as would naturally point out;
- The father’s place in the home.
- The training of children.
- The safeguarding of the marriage tie.
- The protection of womanhood and childhood.
The meaning of this, whether in the light of religion or of patriotism, is so apparent as to need no argument in behalf of such a day.”
The last sentence in today’s language would read something like this; ‘The intention behind this day, whether religious or just patriotic, is such a good idea that there should be no real need for any argument’(writers paraphase).
Sonora was advocating for the first Sunday in June, which was close to her father’s birthday. However, that didn’t allow pastors enough time to prepare for their services, so the first Father’s Day was pushed back to the third Sunday in June.
Various print media publications gave coverage to the Father’s Day celebration in Spokane. The publicity garnered interest among political leaders and local businesses who supported Sonora in her efforts to get Father’s Day recognised nationally.
Local businesses that had already profited from the Mother’s Day celebration started taking out newspaper ads with a Father’s Day theme. Many trade groups that would benefit most, for example manufacturers of ties, belts and braces, helped Sonora to receive national coverage for Father’s Day. The powerful New York Associated Menswear Retailers founded the Father’s Day Council to help Sonora. By the mid-eighties the Father’s Council wrote that “Father’s Day has become the Second Christmas for all the men’s gift-orientated industries.”
President Woodrow Wilson approved Father’s Day in 1916, and in 1919, when Sonora’s father – the man who inspired the holiday – William Smart died, Father’s Day was a popular occasion and celebrated across the United States of America.
In 1966 after forty years of Sonora campaigning and advertising for the holiday, President Lyndon Johnson signed a Presidential Proclamation that decided the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. It was in 1972 when real success was found. President Richard Nixon declared Father’s Day as a ‘permanent national observance.’
According to an article in the Australian Women’s Weekly, Wednesday 7th May 1969 a Mrs Janet Heyden of Strathfield in Sydney was responsible for the introduction and promotion of both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Back in 1923 Mrs Heyden was concerned for the lonely, forgotten and aged mothers in a local institution. As the success of Mother’s Day became more evident and effective her attention was drawn to the men in our society. This caused her to start a campaign for Father’s Day.
Today some 72 countries celebrate this event on the third Sunday in June whereas Australia, New Zealand and some of the Pacific Islands celebrate this event on the first Sunday in September.
Sonora Dodd’s efforts to celebrate and promote Fathers’ Day were a practical expression of what the Lord had ordained in the Fifth of The Ten Commandments “Honour your Father and your Mother.”
May each of us take notice of this biblical and divine instruction, and cherish and respect those who are our fathers (and mothers).