Father's Day: A Brief Look
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Politics and Activism

Father's Day: A Brief Look

The history behind the celebration of fathers.

Father's Day: A Brief Look
Savannah Little

Growing up, and especially now that I'm transitioning into adulthood, my dad was, and is, someone who is very important to me. He—along with the guiding hand of my mother—has taught me so many important life skills: how to do my taxes, driving, patience, the importance of education and so much more. There were some times growing up where he would tell me things that I didn't necessarily want to hear, but I needed to hear. I learned perseverance, standing up for myself and sticking to my commitments (there's a now-funny story about him not letting my quit my soccer team because I had made a commitment to the team and I needed to see it through). So, in honor of my father, I present a brief history of the origins of Father's Day.

Happy Father's Day, everyone! And Dad, the mug is still true—you're still the number one dad.

Early History

Some scholars say the earliest mention of a day celebrating fathers goes back to the ancient times of Babylon. However, there are not many sources on this idea.

Post-Civil War Era

We can't talk about Father's Day without mentioning Mother's Day. Mother's Day was born from a movement after the Civil War that centered around reconciliation. The first Mother's Day was held in a small West Virginian town that had been divided between those on the Confederate side and those on the Union side. The "Mother's Work Days" were celebrated in order to bring the two factions back together. The holiday didn't become a national holiday until 1908.

July 5, 1908

West Virginia led the way again by having the first Father's Day celebration. However, there was a bit of resistance to celebrating fathers because the nation felt fathers lacked the same emotional appeal that mothers had. The first Father's Day was more of a memorial rather than a celebration, as a church honored the 362 men that had died in a mine explosion the previous December in their Sunday sermon. Though it was a one-time event, it is still considered the first Father's Day event to take place.


In 1909, a widower's daughter tried to start a national celebration of fathers in honor of her father, a man who had raised six kids all on his own. This woman, Sonora Smart Dodd, went to local YMCAs, shops and government officials in her native Spokane, Washington to try and raise support for her idea to celebrate fathers. Her idea was a hit and the very first annual Father's Day celebration was set for July 19, 1910.


President Wilson saw the success of Father's Day and it's growing popularity in the U.S.

The Controversy in the 1920s and 1930s

Many critics of individualized Mother's Day and Father's Day were in favor of removing the holidays in favor of a Parent's Day. There were rallies on Mother's Day in support of one, unified Parent's Day. Radio host Robert Spere said that "both parents should be loved and respected together." Interestingly enough, the Depression stymied the efforts or protesters as struggling shopkeepers tried to push the idea of a "second Christmas" for men to help keep their struggling stores afloat. Shopkeepers and store owners would revisit this idea when World War II began as a way to honor the American troops.


Even in the midst of controversy, President Coolidge also was in support of a Father's day to "establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations." Coolidge urged states to celebrate a day honoring fathers.


In the wake of the growing support of Father's Day and after the controversy of the 1920s and '30s, Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote that "either we honor both our parents, mother and father, or let us desist from honoring either one. But to single out just one of our two parents and omit the other is the most grievous insult imaginable."


President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation in 1972 to designate Father's Day a national holiday.

So, on June 19, I'll be celebrating my dad and how important he is to me. I'll also be celebrating the eventful and colorful history that's behind Father's Day.

Here's to you, Dad.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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