It’s hard to imagine a time when there wasn’t an official Father’s Day in America. Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and was made a national holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914.
But Father’s Day came about much more slowly. In fact, it was a woman from Spokane, Washington named Sonora Smart Dodd, who was raised by a widower, that led the way to create a special day for dads. Her grassroots movement to lobby local churches, businesses, organizations and politicians was successful, and the governor of the state of Washington proclaimed the nation’s first “Father’s Day” in 1910.
Unfortunately, it didn’t catch on nationally. Perhaps it was because, as one florist explained, “fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.”
By 1924, President Calvin Coolidge was urging state governments to observe Father’s Day. However, many men continued to disdain the day. One historian noted that men “scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products–often paid for by the father himself.”
During the late 20s and 30s, there was even a movement to get rid of individual holidays for mothers and fathers and combine them into a single holiday, called Parents’ Day.
The Great Depression put an end to the effort to combine and de-commercialize the holidays, as struggling businesses worked hard to make Father’s Day a “second Christmas” for men, promoting goods such as neckties, hats, socks and the like.
Once World War II began, the case was made that celebrating Father’s Day was actually a way to honor the troops and support the war effort. By the end of the war, Father’s Day was certainly a national institution, but still not a national holiday.
That didn’t happen until 1972. While campaigning for his second term, President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation finally making Father’s Day a federal holiday.
Today, there are more than 70 million fathers in the United States.
To the dads out there, we wish you a wonderful and happy Father’s Day. For those who have fathers that are memorialized at Forest Lawn, we invite you to visit your family memorial and reflect upon the great memories you enjoyed together.