From what we know, it all began on July 5, 1908 in a West Virginia church which sponsored the first event explicitly in honor of fathers. A Sunday sermon in memory of the 362 men who had died in the previous December’s explosions at the Fairmont Coal Company mines in Monongah, but it was a one-time commemoration, not an annual holiday.
The following year, Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, WA, tried to establish an official day for male parents. When Sonora was 16, her mother Ellen died, leaving William Jackson Smart as a single father to Sonora and her five younger brothers. “He was both father and mother to me and my brothers and sisters.” To create a day to honor her dad, she went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to drum up support for her idea, and she was successful: Washington State celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on June 19, 1910.
It wasn’t until 1972, six years before Sonora’s death at the age of 96, that President Richard Nixon finally signed a Congressional resolution declaring the third Sunday in June to be Father’s Day. Her dad, no doubt, would have been proud.
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