Today is a day for fathers, as the title implies. But this holiday hasn’t always existed, and its history is somewhat peculiar.
Father’s Day was actually inspired by Mother’s Day, which was inspired by the rebuilding and peace-making efforts after the Civil War. In the 1860s, an activist by the name of Ann Reeves Jarvis brought together a divided West Virginia town by hosting “Mothers Work Days”, which brought together and celebrated mothers of Confederate and Union soldiers.
In 1870 Julia Ward Howe, another activist, called for a national “Mother’s Day Proclamation”.
Mother’s Day was then commercialized in 1908, when Jarvis’s daughter Anna, who was trying to honor her mother by nationalizing the holiday, inspired the John Wanamaker department store to hold a mother’s service in their store.
In 1909, 45 states observed the day, and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson made it official that the second Sunday of each month be Mother’s Day.
Father’s Day didn’t come together quite so quickly or so easily. The first honoring of fathers also started in West Virginia, on July 5, 1908. It was a service honoring the 362 men who had died in an explosion at the Fairmont Coal Company the previous December. This was a one-time service. It would be two more years until the next Father’s Day, this time across the country, in Washington State.
Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, tried to make an official Father’s Day. She partnered with local churches and the government to get it officially ratified as the first statewide Father’s Day, on July 19, 1910. In 1916, President Wilson used the telegraph to unfurl a flag in Spokane, Washington for Father’s Day; and in 1924, Calvin Coolidge tried to get state governments to ratify it.
But then controversy came along. In the 1920s and 30s, there was a strong movement to scrap Mother’s and Father’s Day all together. Every Mother’s Day pro-Parents’ Day activists met in New York in protest of the day, saying that both parents should be celebrated together. But the Depression derailed this movement as stores saw it as a way to make more money. World War II saw retailers celebrate Father’s Day in honor of the troops. It was a national institution by the end of the war.
But it didn’t become a federal holiday until 1972, when Richard Nixon ratified it in a presidential re-election campaign. This is now the 40th official Father’s Day for our nation.
KETR would also like to wish a happy Father’s Day to all fathers, especially the fathers of the staff at Your Station. Also, a happy father’s day to KETR’s own first-time father, Jerrod Knight.