Last month in our tribute to Mom, we offered up a little history of Mother’s Day. Well, fair is fair, so as we celebrate our Dads this weekend, let’s look back and discover how Father’s Day became a national holiday.
You remember from our post last month that Anna Jarvis honored her mother with the first Mother’s Day celebration in Grafton, West Virginia. It was on May 12, 1907. Her mom, Ann Reeves Jarvis, initiated a Mother’s Friendship Day in the 1870s to promote reconciliation between veteran Union and Confederate soldiers.
So you might think that a Mother’s Day celebration would prompt the idea that fathers deserve their own day, too. And you’d be right. On July 5, 1908, a West Virginia church (again, West Virginia!) sponsored the first event solely for fathers. It was a Sunday sermon to honor the 362 men who had died in an explosion at a local mine.
The next year, Sonora Smart Dodd from Spokane, Washington, worked to establish a holiday to honor male parents. She and her 5 siblings were raised by her widower father and she pushed local churches, the YMCA, businesses, and government to honor fathers. She succeeded, at least in Washington State. It celebrated the country’s first official Father’s Day on June 19, 1910.
But the holiday was slow to gain traction. While Mother’s Day was an immediate commercial success with the sale of flowers, cards, and candy for mom, early 20th century men scoffed at the idea. As far as they were concerned, flowers and gift-giving weren’t manly, they were just a commercial gimmick to make money. Plus, who ended up paying for the gifts? The father himself!
There was even a movement during the 20s and 30s to replace Mother’s Day with a Parent’s Day to celebrate both parents. But it was the Great Depression so retailers fought this. They pushed hard to keep Mother’s Day and doubled their efforts to strengthen Father’s Day as a national holiday.
They promoted ties, hats, socks, pipes and tobacco, golf clubs and sporting goods, and, of course, greeting cards. Then with the outbreak of World War II, advertisers persuaded Americans that Father’s Day was a way to honor our troops and the war effort. Father’s Day wasn’t yet a federal holiday, but by the end of the war, it was a spirited national institution.
So when did Father’s Day become a national holiday? Fast forward all the way to 1972. It was Richard Nixon who made it official and signed the proclamation declaring Father’s Day a federal holiday at last. And in 2015, according to the National Retail Federation, more than $12.7 billion was spent on our dads for Father’s Day. As far as we’re concerned, they deserve it!
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!!
Until next time,
Your SZW Team
PS. History of Father’s Day from History.com.
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