10    Jun 201427 comments

The Father Behind Father’s Day

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.

1880 US Census record showing the Smart household. At this time William was the head of a family of 9 children. (Credit: SuperSearch www.myheritage.com/research).

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 and Venezuela, celebrate Father's Day in June, as well.

How will you celebrate Father's Day?

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Comments (27) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Thank you so very much for this very touching and insightful story behind Father's Day. It brings tears to my eyes as this special day draws near, and my own beloved Father has passed on. I still cannot believe three years have gone by - as the pain is still almost unbearable. I am thankful for the MyHeritage site which helps me to stay busy, keeping my dear Father alive by honoring his memory.
  2. Fathers Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in September in Australia
  3. In Australia we celebrate Father's Day on the first Sunday in September
  4. Thank you so much for sharing, My husband and i have been together for 40yrs 2 sons 6 grands and i think he is the best father in our whole wide world we love him very murch he has always tried to be there for us. HAPPY FATHER'S DAY HONEY your Lady.
  5. In Australia our Fathers Day is the first Sunday in September. Sadly, for many fathers and potential fathers, it was on Fathers Day 1939 that Australia entered WW2 - a melancholy day indeed.
  6. Talk about a MAN !! Now that is a perfect example of what it is to be a real man and father to the children !!! Such a person would come few and far between in this life. Would venture to say he sure set the bar really high !!! >>
  7. Father's Day is celebrated on the 1st Sunday in September in New Zealand as well. It is not a public holiday.
  8. Father's day in New Zealand is the first Sunday in September.
  9. Father's day is not only for the biological male parent but also is for the Step Father, and the Foster Father, also for the "father" that that influenced the children of others. Most of all for the Heavenly Father
  10. C'est une histoire très intéressante et vraiment touchante!
  11. And in New Zealand, too, Father's day is the first Sunday in September. Maybe that sentence containing at least two errors was not properly researched.
  12. A touching story. Father's Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in September in New Zealand.
  13. Thank you Robert, I was about to make the same comment.
  14. What a special man William Smart must have been. It would have been very poignant to have celebrated Father's Day on William's Birthday. Hard working and loving dads everywhere, deserve their special day. "Dad" comes in many forms: Step dads, mums who are also "dad", relatives or friends who take on this role and of course we don't forget our grandfathers. I am Australian, but I have no idea as to why we celebrate this day in September.
  15. Thank you, this is so interesting, todays Fathers could certainly take a tip from this, we should share it. My own Father has passed on, but his memory is still very much alive through myself and his grand children.
  16. I love this Heritage Site and hopefully it will help my grand kids as well
  17. Very interesting.
  18. Did enjoy the story of Fathers day. Thanks for sharing it.
  19. It is indeed true that Father's Day in Australia and New Zealand are celebrated in September. The idea for Father's Day that is celebrated worldwide originates from Sonora Smart Dodd's original idea to honor her own father.
  21. I have had the pleasure of meeting & even being related to some really extraordinary dads in my life. They were all very
    special in many different ways. I'm glad they had a day for
    their celebrations.
  22. I am looking for my father's side of the family I know he was from Montgomery but that is all I know
  23. As pointed out by others, Fathers Day in Australia is celebrated in September. On the other hand Mothers Day, which is in May, is often colloquially referred to as being 9 months after Fathers Day.
  24. A very wonderful story of a Father who really cared about his children and others
  25. we don't have a father's day in Israel. there was a mother's day, but after i became a mother they made it "family day".
  26. I really did enjoy reading about William Smart and about how Fathers Day Came to be. William Was a really good father, and a very special person
  27. In South Africa Fathers Day is celebrated on the 3rd Sunday in June. It's the middle of winter so we celebrate indoors.

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