Father's Day hasn't always been about picking out a new tie for dad or getting him that new gadget he's been eyeing. It began as one woman's way of honoring her widower father.
Sonora Smart Dodd was raised in Spokane, Washington, by her father, William Jackson Smart, after her mother died during childbirth (with her sixth child!) when Sonora was just 16 years old. This left William, a Civil War veteran, to raise the newborn as well as his five other children - Sonora the only girl - by himself on their rural farm. In Sonora's eyes, William was courageous, selfless, and a loving father who sacrificed everything for his children.
In 1909, when Sonora was 27, she attended a Mother's Day sermon at her church and wondered why there was no such day for fathers. Believing that the nation did not show enough respect to fathers, she began campaigning for a national holiday. She persuaded the Spokane Ministerial Association and local YMCA to pass a resolution in support of Father's Day, and the first Father's Day was observed on June 19, 1910, in Spokane, Washington. Mrs. Dodd wanted Father's Day to be celebrated on June 5th, her father's birthday, but the council selected the third Sunday in June instead.
States and organizations began lobbying Congress to declare an annual Father's Day. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson came to Spokane and spoke at Father's Day services, but it was not until 1924 that President Calvin Coolidge made it a national event to "establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations." In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father's Day. In 1972, President Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father's Day to be held on the third Sunday of June each year.
Sonora Smart Dodd was honored for her contribution at the World's Fair in Spokane in 1974. Mrs. Dodd died in 1978 at age 96.
In 1999, Father's Day resulted in approximately $95 million in greeting card sales, becoming the fifth most popular card-sending holiday. Sixty percent of consumers regularly purchase a card to celebrate Dear Old Dad, while 41 percent get him clothing of some sort (bad ties included!), 38 percent buy the ol' guy dinner, 22 percent get him sporting goods, while 18 percent buy home improvement items, 17 percent gift him electronics and 12 percent get him gardening tools.