A special day is celebrated annually on the 3rd Sunday of June — Father’s Day.
My father, Herb Christman, worked hard as a farmer with the raising of 10 children. Yet, I can’t recall honoring him on his special day, but I can recall things I did for my mother on her special day. Surely, I’d have made a home-made card in Sunday School and given it to him. As an adult, I did honor him, and it was well-deserved.
Whether I remembered him as a youngster, or a teen, I feel I’ve honored both parents through the stories I’ve written about life on my childhood farm.
I’ve written quite a few stories about my own mother, as well as, the history of Mother’s Day, but I never knew the history of Father’s Day. It was time to find out.
Although Father’s day is celebrated in numerous countries, some scholars opinion is that the first recording of honoring a father comes from the Old Babylonian period, 4,000 years ago. A young lad, named Elmesu, carved a message of good health and a long and happy life to his beloved father.
Jumping ahead to America, there have been numerous claims of being the first to celebrate Father’s Day.
The first Father’s Day church service was held on July 5, 1908, at the now-named Central United Methodist Church, in Fairmont, West Virginia.
Grace Clayton convinced her pastor to pay tribute to the 361 men killed, 250 being fathers, leaving 1,000 fatherless children, in the Monogah Clayton Mining Disaster, months earlier. Clayton also wanted to honor her father, who died years earlier.
With other events going on at the same time in Fairmont, the celebration wasn’t really promoted until 1985, when a historical marker was erected for holding the first Father’s Day observance in West Virginia.
Scholars seem to agree that it was Sonora Smart Dodd, of Spokane, Washington, who was the most persuasive in promoting a Father’s Day celebration in America.
It all started, in the mind of Sonora, after hearing a sermon, in 1909, about Anna Jarvis, who established Mother’s Day. She approached her pastor about honoring all fathers on a special day. Her own father was a Civil War Veteran and, as a widower, raised his six children.
Thus, it was that Father’s Day was celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of June 1910, not only at Senora’s church , but other churches through out the city did the same.
Jane Adams, of the Hull House social settlement, in 1911, proposed a city-wide Father’s Day in Chicago, but it wasn’t accepted.
In Vancouver, Washington, Pastor J. J. Berringer, of the Irvington Methodist Church, decided to celebrate Father’s Day in June 1912. At first, they believed they were the first to celebrate such a day, due to following the idea in the Portland Oregonian newspaper the year before.
Still another claim to Father’s Day was Harry Meek, the President of the Lions’ Club, in Chicago. He organized a ceremony to honor the fathers of his organization the 3rd Sunday of June 1915, which happened to be his birthday. The Lions’ Club named him the “Originator of Father’s Day.” Meek did try hard to promote it as an official holiday.
Heading into the 1920s, Senora Dodd (mentioned earlier) stopped promoting Father’s Day, due to attending an art school in Chicago. No one else seemed interested until Senora returned to Spokane in the 1930s, when she again started promoting Father’s Day at a national level.
This time Senora had help from trade businesses and a Father’s Day Council, founded by New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers.
At first, it was resented by the general public as another day for merchants attempt to buy more “stuff” for fathers. Eventually, the organizations and states all wanted an annual Father’s Day. Thus, it was that a bill was introduced in Congress, in 1913. Yet, it took years till it became a national holiday.
The first president to observe the day was President Wilson, in 1916, who spoke at a Father’s Day celebration in Spokane.
In 1924, President Coolidge recommended the day to be observed by our country, but he didn’t make it a national proclamation.
It took another 24 years, in 1966, that President Johnson signed a presidential proclamation for the 3rd Sunday of June as Father’s Day.
Six more years, when finally, in 1972, President Nixon signed the day into law.
By 1974, Senora Dodd was honored for her contribution of establishing a Father’s Day at Spokane’s World Fair.
In my opinion, Clayton, Dodd, Adams, Pastor Berringer, and Harry Meek, all contributed in some way in establishing the tradition of honoring all fathers.