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Why is Father’s Day celebrated on June 19 in the United States?

Fifty years ago, Father’s Day was made an official holiday in the US, but it traces its origins back to 1910 when Sonora Smart Dodd came up with the idea.

Father's Day is this Sunday

Father’s Day in the United States is celebrated on the third Sunday of June each year and that means that it will fall on 19 June this year. Although the celebration in many countries is born out of a Catholic tradition, in the United States it is different.

The American tradition dates back to 19 June 1910 in Spokane, Washington. It was at that time that the first Father’s Day in the history of the USA was celebrated, the brainchild of Sonora Smart Dodd.

Also see:

Father’s Day in the United States a daughter’s initiative

Dodd was a woman who, along with her five siblings, had been raised by her single father, a Civil War veteran, after their mother had died in childbirth. It was apparently while attending a Mother’s Day sermon with her father at their local church that Sonora realised there was no equivalent for male parents.

In order to honour the father that she was so proud of, the following year she went on to inaugurate a new celebration. The first Father’s Day was endorsed by the YMCA of Spokane and the Ministerial Alliance. The proud daughter had wanted the date to be 5 June, her father’s birthday, but after some delays in the planning it was pushed back to Sunday, 19 June, 1910. Wanting the celebration to remain on a Sunday, it was decided that the date would remain on the third Sunday in June for subsequent years.

When was the first national Father’s Day?

The first presidential approval came in 1913 when President Woodrow Wilson sanctioned the celebrations and even visited Spokane to join the tributes three years later. It’s popularity grew across the country to where in 1924 President Calvin Coolidge announced he wanted to establish Father’s Day as a national celebration.

The idea was rejected however, and it would be another 42 years before the celebration was made official. In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson designated the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day with a presidential proclamation and in 1972 President Richard Nixon established it as a permanent day of national observance.

The holiday is still in place today and is celebrated all across the country. To mark the enormous impact of the celebration, the Dodd family home was added to the Register of Historic Places in 2010, on the 100-year anniversary of that first Father’s Day celebration in Spokane.


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