Figure... The Mother of Father’s Day:
ASpokane woman is credited with being the founder of Father’s Day. Sonora Smart Dodd, often referred to as the
“Mother of Father’s Day,” was 16 years
old when her mother died in 1898,
leaving her father, William Jackson
Smart, to raise Sonora and her five
younger brothers on a remote farm in
In 1909, when Dodd heard a Mother’s Day sermon at Central United
Methodist Church in Spokane, she
was inspired to propose that fathers
receive equal recognition.
The following year, with the assistance of Reverend Dr. Conrad Bluhm,
her pastor at Old Centenary Presbyterian Church (now Knox Presbyterian Church), Dodd took the idea to
the Spokane YMCA. The Spokane
YMCA, along with the Ministerial
Alliance, endorsed Dodd’s idea and
helped it spread by celebrating the
first Father’s Day in 1910. Dodd suggested her father’s birthday, June 5,
be established as the day to honor all
fathers. However, the pastors wanted more time to prepare, so June
19, 1910, was designated as the first
Father’s Day and sermons honoring
fathers were presented throughout
It was years, however, before Father’s Day gained national prominence. In 1924, President Calvin
Coolidge recognized Father’s Day
and urged the states to do likewise.
In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation calling
for the third Sunday in June to be
recognized as Father’s Day and requested flags to be flown that day
on all government buildings. President Richard M. Nixon signed a
proclamation in 1972, permanently
observing Father’s Day on the third
Sunday in June.
Dodd’s pivotal role in the creation
of a national Father’s Day celebration was recognized in 1943 at a luncheon in her honor in New York City
at the Billion Dollar Bond Drive, at a
celebration by the National Council
for the Promotion of Father’s Day
at the 1940 New York World’s Fair,
and at the 1974 World’s Fair Expo in
Spokane. A plaque dedicated in 1948
honoring Dodd’s efforts rests on a
granite boulder outside the Central
Spokane YMCA commemorating the
YMCA’s role in the first celebration
of Father’s Day.
com, courtesy of Visit Spokane.
Please enjoy the essays on fathers and fatherhood contributed by WSBA members found on the
following pages. Happy Father’s Day!
Top: Spokane’s Sonora Smart Dodd. Bottom:
Dodd’s father, William Jackson Smart.
Images courtesy of Visit Spokane.