Celebrate Dads Everywhere With The History of Father's Day

On Sunday, Americans will celebrate dads across the country for Father's Day. The national holiday has been honored since the early 20th Century.

While there are many different supposed origins of Father's Day, it is most commonly linked to a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, who thought of the idea during a Mother's Day sermon.

Dodd came up with the idea in 1909 with her father in mind. He was a farmer and Civil War veteran as well as a widower who had raised six children. Working with the Spokane Ministerial Association and YMCA, she helped establish the first Father's Day in Washington state on June 19, 1910.

Even though Dodd played a major part in establishing Father's Day, a service for fathers was first celebrated two years prior in 1908. According to the History Channel, a West Virginia church held a mass on July 5 to honor 362 men who were killed during a coal mining explosion. Even though it was the first celebration of fathers, the memorial service was a one-off day rather than a recurring holiday.

While Father's Day received recognition from many Americans and presidents in the years following its founding, it wasn't made a permanent national holiday until 1972, when President Richard Nixon declared it so. Woodrow Wilson first tried to make it a national holiday in 1916, according to Good Housekeeping. Calvin Coolidge recommended it become a national holiday in 1924, and Lyndon B. Johnson signed an executive order marking the third Sunday of June as Father's Day in 1966, according to the Art of Manliness.

Father's Day being celebrated on the third Sunday in June also originated with Dodd. According to the Farmer's Almanac, Dodd originally suggested June 5, because it was her father's birthday, but local ministers wanted extra time to write sermons for Father's day, after Mother's Day services, thus deeming the third Sunday.

Despite being a widely accepted day to give your old man a new tie or take him out golfing, many men resisted the day, due to the commercialization of Mother's Day and the gifts often given to mothers. In the Farmer's Almanac's history, a historian is quoted as saying that dads "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."

Today, Father's day is celebrated across the globe. Like the U.S., many countries celebrate on the third Sunday in June, like Japan, Ireland, Zimbabwe, and Panama, but many countries have their own day, with the earliest yearly celebration falling on March 14 in Iran and the latest being December 5 in Thailand.

Father's Day
A father walks with his daughter in a street during the coronavirus pandemic on April 25, 2020 in Seville, Spain. Niccolo Guasti//Getty