No matter how you choose to celebrate Father’s Day, you can thank a woman named Sonora Louise Smart Dodd for the tradition. Father’s Day history begins with this resident of Spokane, Washington. She was the oldest of six children who were raised by their father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, after their mother died during childbirth. Listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909, Sonora made up her mind to establish a day to honor fathers.
With support from the Spokane Ministerial Association and the YMCA, the first Father’s Day was celebrated in Spokane on June 19, 1910 — a couple of weeks after Sonora’s father’s birthday. On that day, young members of the YMCA went to church wearing roses: a red rose to honor a living father, and a white rose to honor a deceased one.
Although the holiday continued to be celebrated, it would be another 62 years before it was officially recognized. Father’s Day history was bumpy, with some people resisting the idea, making fun of it, or fearing that it would become too commercialized. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge recommended that the third Sunday in June be set aside for a national holiday. President Lyndon Johnson signed a similar proclamation in 1966, but Father’s Day become an official national holiday until President Richard Nixon’s proclamation in 1972. Sonora Dodd, the driving force behind the holiday, died March 22, 1978.
Father’s Day is now celebrated in every part of the world. In the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and many other countries, it falls on the third Sunday in June. Now that you know more about Father’s Day, you might want to check out our handy list of Father’s Day dates.