Father's Day is coming up at the end of the week. It's a special day when we honor our fathers and grandfathers and celebrate our paternal bonds.
The idea for Father's Day originated in the United States with Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington. She was inspired by Mother's Day, the special day to honor our mothers, and felt it would be right to create a day to honor fathers. She wanted to honor her own father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran. William had single-handedly raised his motherless children on an eastern Washington farm.
Sonora described her father as “both mother and father to us for 21 years.” He had five children with his first wife who died, six with his second wife who also died, and raised three stepchildren from his second wife's children from a previous marriage. He was a real family man!
Take a look at the complete Smart Family Tree on MyHeritage.
Through the years, William provided for his large household and cared for his children with and without the help of a spouse. In the following record from the 1880 US census, William, 37, was married to his second wife, Ellen Victoria. There were 12 people in the household: William, Ellen Victoria, five children from William’s first marriage (Mary, Martha, William, Susan, and Annie) and three children from Ellen Victoria’s previous marriage (John, James, and Liuary. William's sister Marthy was also living with the family, along with her daughter Dora.
Sonara was born two years after this census record, in 1882, and was the only daughter of William and Ellen Victoria. When Ellen Victoria died in 1898, William continued to raise their collection of children, by himself.
In 1909, Sonara asked the Spokane Ministerial Alliance about creating "Honor Thy Father's Day." She originally intended that Father's Day would be celebrated on June 5 - her father's birthday. But there wasn't enough time for the clergy to prepare their first sermons. So in 1910, the first Father's Day was held on the third Sunday in June. On July 19, 1910, the Governor of the State of Washington proclaimed the nation’s first “Father’s Day.”
The holiday did not have much success at the beginning, so in the 1930s, Sonara Smart Dodd enlisted the help of retailers, saying that they would benefit from the holiday, being able to sell gifts for fathers, such as neckties, tobacco pipes, books, and more.
Americans perceived Father's Day as an attempt by merchants to achieve the same commercial success as Mother's Day. The public did not embrace Father's Day, and it was a few decades before Dodd and the trade groups finally succeeded in making Father's Day something special.
In 1972, US President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation honoring Father’s Day as an official, nationwide holiday in the United States.
Father's Day celebrations in other countries were inspired by the original American custom of Father's Day. In Canada, the UK and the US, Father's Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June. Many other countries, such as Argentina, France, Greece, India, Ireland, Mexico, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Venezuela, Australia and New Zealand celebrate Father's Day in June, as well.
How will you celebrate Father's Day?
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