Up and Down the River by Cathy Johnson and guest writers is published weekly in the Big Rapids Pioneer.
By Cathy Johnson
The current version of the celebration of Father’s Day originated here in the United States, although some scholars trace the origin of the actual observance of a day to honor fathers quite far back in history. Once the tradition became established here in the U.S., it spread as a secular holiday to other parts of the world.
Like the Mother’s Day holiday, Father’s Day began due to the efforts of a young woman who wished to honor her father. Sonora Louise Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, had the idea when she listened to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. A mature young woman of 27, Dodd found herself wondering why there was not a similar day to recognize fathers. She had great regard for her own father who raised six children, including a newborn, by himself following the death of his wife in childbirth. Sonora was 16 at the time, and her father’s efforts on behalf of the family did not go unnoticed. She took note of the efforts of Anna Jarvis to establish Mother’s Day and began her own campaign for Father’s Day. In this she was supported by the Spokane Ministerial Association and the local YMCA. The city of Spokane celebrated its first Father’s Day on June 19, 1910. And although wider acceptance came slower than she would have liked, the idea gained in popularity throughout the United States.
President Woodrow Wilson endorsed the idea in 1916, and Calvin Coolidge also supported it in 1924, in order to “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.” In 1957, Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote to Congress 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.” Another decade would pass before Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation in 1966 declaring the third Sunday in June to be Father’s Day. In 1972, Richard Nixon established the permanent national observance of Father’s Day to be the third Sunday of June. Sonora Dodd was honored for her contribution at the Seattle World’s Fair in 1974.
Other countries, such as Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and Norway also celebrate Father’s Day in June. Many countries with a Catholic background observe Father’s Day on the feast of St. Joseph on March 19th.
Like other holidays in the United States, Father’s Day has become commercialized, with merchandising and special sales for consumers. The proverbial necktie is a popular gift, as is sporting gear or outdoor cooking utensils. And while mom is most often taken out to eat on her day, fathers very often spend their day being the grill master for the family.
But however you celebrate it, remember the origin of the holiday and the role that fathers play in our families. Grandpas, uncles, and brothers too can take a turn in the fatherly business of family, and thus deserve some recognition too. Happy Father’s Day, guys!
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