On Sunday, June 18, 2023, the nation will celebrate men who have embraced their role as fathers or father figures. The celebration is called Father’s Day. Like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is spelled with a singular possessive to represent that each family should honor its mother and father figures. Other similarities exist with one grave difference. Let’s explore the makings of a day to honor the men who nurture, protect, and raise their children.
Like Mother’s Day, the first Father’s Day honors trace back to a church service. The church created many of our current societal norms. And so it was on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia, congregants gathered to honor the lives of 360 men (250 fathers) and boys who died during a mining explosion the year before. The deaths left approximately 1,000 children fatherless. Presumably, Mrs. Grace Golden Clayton reflected on the loss of her father, Reverend Martin Golden, who died in 1896, when choosing to commemorate fathers on a date close to Golden’s birthday. Unfortunately, the event was unsustainable due to its proximity to the 4th of July celebrations. But Clayton remains the “mother of the First Father’s Day service.”
A year later, Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, would begin her campaign to make Father’s Day a national holiday. Supposedly, she had the idea while attending a Mother’s Day service. Dodd was the only daughter of six children to a single dad, William Smart, a civil war veteran who lost his wife during childbirth. Like Clayton, Dodd proposed they celebrate an annual holiday near her father’s birthday, on June 5. The Spokane Ministerial Alliance and the YMCA event organizers could not assemble the celebration until the following week. So on Sunday, June 19, 1910, Father’s Day became an annual event in Spokane, Washington, and other towns followed. Dodd is recognized as the mother of Father’s Day.
Still, it was a long trek to national status. Partly because fathers were less amenable to receiving flowers and cards–it would take a war to stir the nation toward remembrance. Like the catastrophe that led to the first church service dedicated to fathers, World War II traumatically rocked the foundation of families. By the end of the war, in 1945, Father’s Day had become a national institution.
While there was undoubtedly traction, it took another couple of decades for President Lyndon B. Johnson to issue a proclamation to honor fathers on the third Sunday in June 1966. And in 1972, after more than half a century, President Richard Nixon made Father’s Day a national holiday. It has been celebrated on the third Sunday in June ever since.
If you look closely, the holiday was predicated on tragedy (fathers killed and fatherless children). The unfortunate absence of fathers made the people’s hearts grow fonder. Sometimes the absence left a gaping hole.
Because Fathers are the “F” in the family. They are the primary source of generational blessings.
In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed— Genesis 12:3, 22:18
Would you agree that we need more responsible men leading and providing for their households? If so, let’s pray for it. We need them as much as we need our churches as unified influential institutions. Let us appreciate the value of both to society and let’s celebrate the roles of fathers, pops, dads and grand dads.
Many blessings and Happy Father’s Day to all the dads. Really,