Who Invented Father’s Day?

Father's Day was invented to honor a single father of six—but it didn't catch on right away.
Father's Day was invented to honor a single father of six—but it didn't catch on right away. / H. Armstrong Roberts/iStock via Getty Images

In July 1908—just two months after the first Mother’s Day was celebrated—a West Virginia church organized a memorial event for 362 men who had died in a mining accident earlier that year. Though technically the first public event meant to honor fathers, it didn’t catch on as an annual cause.

That came two years later (and a few thousand miles away), when a Washington resident named Sonora Smart Dodd lobbied the city of Spokane to recognize a day for fathers. Dodd’s father had raised six children after his wife died in childbirth, and Dodd wanted to arrange a citywide celebration of fatherhood on his birthday, June 5, 1910. Officials agreed, but they shifted the date to June 19 to give them more time to prepare.

According to Live Science, Spokane residents spent the first Father’s Day distributing red roses to fathers at a church service and pinning them to their chests to honor their own dads—red for the living, and white for those who had died.

When Did Father's Day Become a National Holiday?

Spokane continued to celebrate Father’s Day each year, and a number of other local Father’s Day events sprang up around the country. As the holiday gained popularity, presidents began to take notice. President Woodrow Wilson endorsed Spokane’s tradition with a telegram in 1916, and President Calvin Coolidge voiced his approval of a state-sanctioned Father’s Day in 1924.

But it would still be another 42 years before the federal government officially recognized the holiday. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued a proclamation stating Father’s Day should be celebrated nationwide on the third Sunday in June, and President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

There are a few different theories that could explain the decades-long delay. For one, many had spoken out against the commercialization of Mother’s Day (including its founder, Anna Jarvis), and politicians were worried the same thing could happen if they elevated Father’s Day to a national level. Some historians have suggested 20th-century fathers simply weren’t keen on the sentimental nature of the holiday; plus, since they were the primary breadwinners, many would’ve been buying gifts with their own money.

When Is Father's Day 2020?

We continue to celebrate Father’s Day on the third Sunday in June today, and this year’s falls on June 21, 2020. As for what gift to get your dad, we’ll leave that up to you—but here are 10 great ideas.

[h/t Live Science]