Do you know how fathers came to be honored in the United States on the third Sunday in June?
The first known Father’s Day service occurred in Fairmont, West Virginia, on July 5, 1908, after hundreds of men died in the worst mining accident in U.S. history.
Grace Golden Clayton, the daughter of a minister, proposed a service to honor all fathers, especially those who had died in the mine disaster. However, the observance did not become an annual event, and it was not promoted; very few people outside of the local area knew about it. Meanwhile, across the country in the state of Washington, another woman was inspired to honor fathers.
In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, was inspired by Anna Jarvis and the idea of Mother’s Day. Her father, William Jackson Smart, a farmer and Civil War veteran, was a single parent who raised Sonora and her five brothers by himself, after his wife Ellen died giving birth to their youngest child. While attending a Mother’s Day church service in 1909, Sonora came up with the idea.
Within a few months, Sonora had convinced the Spokane Ministerial Association and the YMCA to set aside a Sunday in June to celebrate fathers. She proposed June 5, her father’s birthday, but the ministers chose the third Sunday in June so that they would have more time after Mother’s Day (the second Sunday in May) to prepare their sermons. Thus, on June 19, 1910, the first Father’s Day events commenced: Sonora delivered presents to handicapped fathers, boys from the YMCA decorated their lapels with fresh-cut roses (red for living fathers, white for the deceased), and the city’s ministers devoted their homilies to fatherhood.
In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed an executive order that Father's Day be celebrated on the third Sunday in June, and in 1972, Congress passed an act officially making Father's Day a national holiday.
Over 100 years ago, two women recognized the value of honoring fathers in the same way we pay tribute to mothers, each year.
They understood the importance that fathers play in the raising of children, supporting their spouse, and providing for the family.
If you're fortunate enough to have had a man in your life who taught you the values of what a family was all about, loving each other, caring for each other, and supporting each other, make sure you take the time today to honor your father.
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