How Did Father's Day Begin?

did-father-s-day-begin Credit: Rodrigo Amorim/CC-BY 2.0

Father's Day originated to complement Mother's Day, which became a commercial holiday in 1908. Father's Day was first celebrated at a church in West Virginia in that same year on July 5th, though that was only a one time event and not set up as an annual holiday. It was not made a permanent national holiday until 1972.

A woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by her widower father, began to campaign for the holiday in 1909. She appealed to churches, shopkeepers and public officials to gain support in her state. Sonora was successful and Washington became the first state to celebrate a state wide Father's Day.

Despite early success, many attempts to make Father's Day a national holiday were met with resistance because Congress feared it would become commercialized. Retailers and advertisers pushed it as a "second Christmas" for men. When World War II began, advertisers pushed Father's Day as a way to honor the troops and the war effort. This helped it gain popularity, and it was already a national institution by the time it was declared an official holiday by President Nixon in 1972. Our dads have been outfitted in fancy new ties every year since.