BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Most parents would do anything for their child.
From the very beginning of their offspring’s life, parents sacrifice their sleep.
In fact, a survey found that new parents lose a staggering 109 minutes of sleep every night in the first year after having a baby.
Beginning in that first year, Louisiana parents spend approximately $2,686 annually on their children’s needs.
Given the countless sacrifices mothers and fathers make for their children, it’s no wonder that certain days of the year are dedicated to showing appreciation to each parent.
But what exactly is the story of Father’s Day? Who was motivated to start this? And why?
The two women behind the movement
Historians generally credit Grace Golden Clayton as the suggestion for the first unofficial Father’s Day event on US soil.
It was a service held on July 5, 1908 in Fairmont, West Virginia.
Clayton’s proposal for the service was to honor all fathers and in particular the 360 men, most of whom were fathers who had been killed in a coal mine explosion seven months earlier.
The service went ahead as planned but was not recognized as an official national Father’s Day event.
The following year, a second woman strove to make Father’s Day a national celebration.
A 27-year-old Spokane, Washington resident named Sonora Smart Dodd was the daughter of a single father who served in the Civil War and raised six children alone after his wife died in childbirth.
It was in 1909 that Dodd reportedly heard a sermon on Mother’s Day and had the idea of having a similar day for fathers.
She pushed for it in her local religious community, and as her efforts gained momentum, the first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910, a date chosen to honor the month in which Dodd’s father was born.
Pushback against the holiday
As a result of Spokane’s work to make the third Sunday in June Father’s Day, cities across the US occasionally held similar celebrations.
But not all were for the special day.
In fact, it was generally men who opposed the idea of such a holiday.
The reason boiled down to the conception of gender roles at the time.
Many men found it an insult to their titles of “breadwinner” and “head of household” to be honored by a holiday in the same way women were honored on Mother’s Day.
One historian wrote that men “mocked the holidays’ sentimental attempts to tame manhood with flowers and gifts, or scoffed at the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial ploy to sell more produce—often paid for by the father himself.”
That didn’t stop the nation’s highest office from announcing its support for the Spokane-proposed holiday.
The observance received verbal approval from a US President in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson advocated Father’s Day but did not sign a proclamation for it.
Despite the President’s approval, the controversy over compliance did not abate.
By the 1920s, so much emotion was associated with the planned holiday that every year on Mother’s Day, protesters marched in New York’s Central Park to demand that both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day be scrapped to make way for “Parent’s Day.” make.
When and how did Father’s Day become an official national holiday?
But as the nation fell under the spell of the Great Depression of 1929-39, retailers and financial experts suddenly saw the value in the commercial aspect of Father’s Day.
So advertisers doubled down to rebrand Father’s Day as something that would appeal to men of this generation.
They packaged the idea as a “second Christmas” for dads and delivered it to a downtrodden audience craving something worth celebrating.
Their efforts were successful, and years later, in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued a proclamation acknowledging the observance.
It finally became a national holiday in 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed legislation declaring the third Sunday in June to be Father’s Day.
Sonora Smart Dodd was still alive at age 90 when the observance she campaigned for became an official national holiday.
Father’s Day is one of many holidays that, while seemingly simple in purpose, have a surprisingly complex background.