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How Did Father’s Day Get Started?

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Posted by Jose Alfaro

Jose & Kids Summer LookFather’s Day was inaugurated in the United States in the early 20th century to complement Mother’s Day in celebrating fatherhood and male parenting.

The campaign to celebrate the nation’s fathers did not meet with the same enthusiasm as for Mother’s day. Perhaps because, as one florist explained, “fathers haven’t had the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.” In 1909, a Spokane, Washington woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, tried to establish an official equivalent to Mother’s Day for male parents. She went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to drum up support for her idea. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June. Several local clergymen accepted the idea, and on 19 June 1910, the first Father’s Day, sermons honoring fathers were presented throughout the city. Slowly, the holiday spread. Washington State celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on July 19, 1910. In 1916, President Wilson honored the day by using telegraph signals to unfurl a flag in Spokane when he pressed a button in Washington, D.C. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day. However, many men continued to disdain the day. As one historian writes, they “scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products–often paid for by the father himself.”

A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913.  In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak in a Father’s Day celebration and wanted to make it official, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become commercialized. U.S. President Calvin Coolidge recommended in 1924 that the day be observed by the nation, but stopped short of issuing a national proclamation.  Two earlier attempts to formally recognize the holiday had been defeated by Congress.  In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers, thus “[singling] out just one of our two parents”.  In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.  Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

In addition to Father’s Day, International Men’s Day is celebrated in many countries on November 19th for men and boys who are not fathers.

What this all adds up to is a wonderful National Holiday recognizing our fathers.  Happy Father’s Day!

– From Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia

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