Sun. Nov 17th, 2019

The ‘mother of Father’s Day’ – Learn about the woman who made it happen

Sonora Smart Dodd, Father's DayFather’s Day is celebrated annually on the third Sunday in June. We would not be commemorating Father’s Day if it was not for Sonora Smart Dodd.

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Father’s Day was celebrated in Catholic Europe since the 14th century, observed on 19 March. However, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that the celebrations spread to the States and other parts of the world.

Following Anna Javis’ campaign to honour mothers on Mother’s Day, the first observance of a day honouring fathers was held on 19 June 1910 in Spokane, Washington, thanks to one woman – Sonora Louise Smart Dodd.

Who was Sonora Louise Smart Dodd?

Dodd, born in 1882, was the daughter of American Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart. She was 16 years old when her mother died in childbirth with her sixth child.

Following her mother’s death, Dodd helped her father raise her younger brothers. She held her father in high esteem and was motivated by the newly recognised Mother’s Day to fight for the recognition of fatherhood.

The establishment of Father’s Day

She drew up a petition and approached the Spokane Ministerial Alliance. Dodd suggested her own father’s birthday, June 5, as the day of honour for fathers.

Instead, the Alliance chose the third Sunday in June. The first celebration was held at the YMCA in Spokane. Sadly, the day faded into obscurity when Dodd began studying at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The revival of the day

Dodd began promoting the holiday again a decade later when she returned to Spokane. This time around, she joined forces with trade groups who would benefit from commercialising the day.

By the late thirties, Dodd had the help of the Father’s Day Council; founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize the holiday’s commercial promotion.

However, many believed the commemorative day was just a marketing scheme to replicate the commercial success of Mother’s Day. Nevertheless, Dodd and the trade groups remained resilient.

It took more than six decades, but the day for honouring fathers was finally cemented in American tradition during the late seventies. Dodd’s father died in 1919, and Dodd passed away in 1978.

Also read – Seven lekker local spots to take Dad this Father’s Day

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