The Origins of Father’s Day

June 15, 2023
A father and daughter standing by the ocean

Father’s Day History

A beloved single dad inspired it.

His daughter rallied for it.

A president made it official.


  • William Jackson Smart: Civil War veteran. Twice widowed, he had a large family and raised 6 children himself.

  • His daughter Sonora felt inspired to honor him after listening to a 1909 Mother’s Day sermon, and rallied local support for fathers to have their own day.

  • First Father’s Day: Spokane, WA, June 19, 1910. Sonora encouraged people to honor fathers in June because her dad's birthday was June 5th.

Interesting To Note

  • While Mother’s Day became official in 1914, Father’s Day did not become official until 1972.

  • That said, Father’s Day was observed in various ways around the country during the decades in between.

  • 1966: Pres. Johnson declared the third Sunday in June that year to be Father’s Day.

  • 1972: Pres. Nixon signed a proclamation officially designating the third Sunday in June as Father's Day, making it a permanent national holiday.

Flowers For Fathers?

  • Original Father's Day Gift: In 1910, red roses were gifted to living fathers; white roses honored those deceased.

  • This year, Americans are expected to spend an average of about $196 for Father’s Day, with consumers collectively spending "a record-high $22.9 billion to celebrate …" According to the National Retail Federation, the most popular gifts for the holiday are greeting cards, followed by clothing, special outings (brunch, dinner) and gift cards.

"To have a father—to be a father—is to come very near the heart of life itself."

Pres. Richard Nixon's opening statement in his Father's Day proclamation in 1972 — more than sixty years after Sonora Dodd began lobbying for the day. In 2009, Congress passed a resolution commending "her contribution in recognizing the importance of Father's Day and recognizing the important role fathers play in our families."

by Jenna Lee,