Like many holidays, Father’s Day had a humble beginning. It began as a day of remembrance for fathers who had passed away.
In 1908, a Methodist congregation in West Virginia held a service to honor the 250 fathers who died in a mining accident.
Two years later, the first event to be held on the third Sunday in June was held in Spokane. It was organized by Sonora Smart Dodd whose civil war veteran father was a single parent who raised six children.
That same year Father’s Day was proclaimed a holiday in the state of Washington.
A bill was introduced in the United States Congress to make Father’s Day a recognized holiday, and it had the support of President Woodrow Wilson, but Congress voted against it.
The celebration was often mocked in the press, with critics claiming merchants just wanted to replicate the retail success of Mother’s Day.
But it wasn’t just the press who mocked the holiday. So did many fathers who felt their manliness was being domesticated. In addition, they disliked the idea of a gift-giving holiday when they, as the breadwinners, would be paying for their own gifts.
Retailers during the Great Depression used Father’s Day as an excuse to boost sales of ties, sporting goods, pipes and other products.
The celebration was given a patriotic twist during World War II and used to honor servicemen.
Father’s Day was celebrated informally until it finally became a federally-recognized holiday in 1972.
Today, the holiday is celebrated throughout the world with the date varying from nation to nation.
Updated: 26 October 2020