FATHER’S DAY and the Christian Connection.
In 1909, John and Sonora Dodd attended the Mother’s Day service (http://www.diduno.info/2014/11/mothers-day/) at their church. As Sonora listened to the sermon and heard the virtues of mothers and motherhood from the Scriptures, her mind went back to her childhood. She thought of how important fathers are in raising children and she thought of the notion of a Father’s Day.
Sonora’s father William, a Civil War veteran, lost his wife as she gave birth to their sixth child. Sonora was sixteen at the time of her mother’s death and being the eldest child, much of the responsibility 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 make sacrifices in order to give the children better lives.
After the Mother’s Day church service in 1909, Sonora felt inspired to campaign for equal recognition of fathers. In June 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 Christian 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 contained writing 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.”
Sonora advocated for Father’s Day to be celebrated on the first Sunday in June, which was close to her own father’s birthday. However, that didn’t allow pastors enough time to prepare a service, and so the first Father’s Day was pushed back to the third Sunday of June.
Various print media publications gave coverage to the Father’s Day celebration in Spokane. This 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. She was honoured as the founder of ‘Father’s Day’ at the 1940 New York World Trade Fair for her contribution to commerce.
President Woodrow Wilson approved of 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 celebration 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 day of “permanent national observance”.
Some 72 countries celebrate Father’s Day 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 Father’s 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 God has chosen to be our earthly fathers (and mothers).
Written by: Graham McDonald DIDUNO