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 Father's Day

The nation's first Father's Day was celebrated in Washington State on June 19, 1910. However, it wasn't until 1972, 58 years after President Woodrow Wilson established Mother's Day, that a day honoring fathers became a national holiday; Father's Day 2022 will be Sunday, June 19.

The Inspiration for "Mother's Day Father's Day

The origins of today's Mother's Day can be traced to a campaign for peace and reconciliation after the Civil War, when in the 1860s, at the urging of activist Ann Reeves Jarvis, the mothers of Confederate and Union soldiers gathered in one divided West Virginia town to celebrate "Mother's Work Day."

Did you know? There are more than 70 million fathers in the United States.

In 1908, John Wanamaker's department store in Philadelphia offered a service dedicated to mothers in its auditorium, inspired by Jarvis' daughter, Anna Jarvis, who wanted to honor her own mother by making Mother's Day a national holiday.

This relationship with retailers, who saw great profit in Mother's Day, quickly took hold; in 1909, 45 states established Mother's Day, and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson passed a resolution making the second Sunday in May a national holiday to honor "America's gentle and gentle troops, the mothers." The resolution was passed in 1914.

Origins of Father's Day

Father's Day was established in 1908 because, as one florist explained, "fathers do not have the same sentimental appeal as mothers."

On July 5, 1908, a West Virginia church sponsored the nation's first event honoring fathers. A Sunday sermon was preached in memory of the 362 people who died in an explosion at the Fairmont coal mine in Mononga the previous December.

The following year, a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, one of six children raised by a widower, attempted to establish an official equivalent of Mother's Day for male parents. She visited local churches, YMCAs, shopkeepers, and government officials to drum up support for her idea, and she succeeded: on June 19, 1910, Washington State established the nation's first "Father's Day."

Father's Day Controversy and Commercialism

Many men, however, took the day lightly. As one historian writes, they "scoffed at sentimental holidays that attempted to domesticate manhood with flowers and gifts, and they derided the rise of such holidays as commercial gimmicks, often paid for by fathers themselves, to sell merchandise."

In the 1920s and 1930s, a movement was launched to abolish Mother's Day and Father's Day in favor of a single holiday, Parents' Day. Every year on Mother's Day, "Parents' Day" proponents rally in New York City's Central Park to "publicly remind both parents that they should both be loved and respected," according to "Parents' Day" activist and radio personality Robert Speer.

Paradoxically, however, the Great Depression frustrated attempts to combine and de-commercialize the holidays. Struggling retailers and advertisers redoubled their efforts to make Father's Day a "second Christmas" for men, promoting products such as ties, hats, socks, pipes and tobacco, sporting goods such as golf clubs, and greeting cards.

As World War II began, advertisers began to claim that celebrating Father's Day was a way to honor the U.S. military and support the war effort. By the end of the war, Father's Day may not have been a federal holiday, but it had become a national event.