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Father’s Day

Father Walking With Son

Father’s Day in America arose as a response of one Christian effort to another Christian effort. Early in the twentieth century, Anna Jarvis, with the help of fellow evangelical Christian, John Wanamaker, initiated Mother’s Day in response to the Christian life and service of Anna’s mother, Ann Jarvis.

Influenced by the raise of Mother’s Day, Sonora Smart Dodd initiated the first attempts to formally establish a day to recognize the importance of fathers in the life of the family. This first observance occurred in Spokane, Washington on June 19, 1910 at a Yong Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). Dodd’s father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised six children in Spokane. After hearing a sermon about Anna Jarvis’ Mother’s Day in 1909, Dodd told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday to honor them. She proposed that it be observed on June 5, her father’s birthday, but pastors were unable to prepare for the occasion with limited opportunity, so the celebration was deferred until the third Sunday of June.

The road to official recognition of Father’s Day in America was long. In 1913, a bill to accord the day national recognition was introduced, and in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson traveled to Spokane to speak and wanted to officially recognize the day, but Congress feared it would merely become commercialized. President Coolidge feel short of issuing a national proclamation to nationally recognize the day in 1924. In 1957, Maine Senator, Margaret Chase Smith, chastised Congress for ignoring fathers for forty years while at the same time was willing to recognize mothers. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation to recognize Father’s Day, designating the third Sunday in June for its observance. Finally, in 1972, President Richard M. Nixon signed a bill from Congress establishing the third Sunday in June a date for the perpetual observance of Father’s Day.

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