Q: How did the tradition of celebrating Father’s Day begin?
Answer: We’re running this answer one day early as a gentle reminder to people who need to go grab a Father’s Day gift or make a reservation before it’s too late.
Father’s Day, which is Sunday, traces its beginning to the adoration of one woman for her father, who raised six young children after his wife’s death.
William Jackson Smart was a Civil War veteran. His daughter, Sonora Louise Smart Dodd, got the idea of a day to honor fathers after hearing a Mother’s Day sermon. She approached ministers and civic groups in Spokane, Wash., with the idea.
The celebration was supposed to take place on the first Sunday in June 1910, which was her father’s birthday. But ministers asked for more time in planning their sermons, and the third Sunday in June was the next best date.
But as with every holiday’s beginnings, there are controversies.
Harry O. Meek said he started Father’s Day observances in 1915. He said he founded the day because he felt that fathers were just as important as mothers, who already had their own day. Meek was the president of the Lions Club in Chicago. He is said to have celebrated the first Father’s Day with his organization to stress the need to honor fathers. He selected the third Sunday in June for celebration, the closest date to his own birthday. In appreciation of Meek’s work, the Lions Clubs of America presented him with a gold watch, with the inscription reading, “Originator of Father’s Day,” on his birthday, June 20, 1920.
You know that it’s a real holiday when the president recognizes it.
In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge wrote to the nation’s governors, suggesting they observe the holiday in their states.
“The widespread observance of this occasion,” Coolidge wrote, “is calculated to establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and also to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.”
Coolidge and his wife, Grace, had two sons, John and Calvin Jr., who died at 16 from sepsis
Two other early attempts to formalize the day were introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives, but neither resolution passed. The most notable effort to have a Father’s Day officially recognized was made by U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, R-Maine. Her 1965 proposal to Congress read in part: “Either we honor both our parents, mother and father, or let us desist from honoring either one. But to single out just one of our two parents and omit the other is the most grievous insult imaginable.”
Despite the fact that Father’s Day was already being celebrated in virtually every state, Congress did not act on Smith’s suggestion. Finally, in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed a congressional resolution establishing Father’s Day as a national holiday to be celebrated each year on the third Sunday in June.
Father’s Day has become a national holiday in this country and has since come to be observed in South America, the United Kingdom and Europe.
According to recent figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, of the 121 million adult males in America, about 75 million are fathers to biological, step- or adopted children, and about 1 in 4 men are grandfathers.