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Father’s Day

imagesIn 1914 President Woodrow Wilson approved a resolution and declared the second Sunday in May Mother’s Day. In 1972 President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday on the third Sunday in June.

Why was Father’s Day proclaimed a holiday 58 years later than Mother’s Day?

Two women campaigned for these two holidays. Anna M. Jarvis who lived in West Virginia, devoted six years of her life after her mother’s death, beginning in 1908, petitioning state governments, business leaders, churches, and community organizations for Mother’s Day. In 1909 a Spokane, Washington woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, tried to establish an official day for fathers. Inspired by Jarvis’s work, she thought fathers deserved the same recognition as mothers. She went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to drum up support for her idea, and Washington celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on July 19, 1910.

Slowly, the holiday spread. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day in an effort to “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.” Tobacconists and haberdashers promoted Father’s Day. They advertised cigars and men’s clothing as gifts instead of roses, the flower that Dodd had proposed as the official symbol of Father’s Day. And the earliest greeting cards showed neckties as the perfect Father’s Day gifts.

So why did it take so long for fathers to officially have their own holiday?

Maybe because Sonora Dodd didn’t work as hard for Father’s Day as Anna Jarvis worked for Mother’s Day or maybe Dodd didn’t talk to the right people.

Maybe because, as one historian wrote, men “scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products–often paid for by the father himself.” (http://www.history.com)

Maybe because during the 1920s and 1930s, a movement arose to favor one holiday: Parent’s Day.

Maybe because the Depression derailed the effort to honor both parents and an attempt was made to de-commercialize holidays.

Maybe because, as a florist explained, “fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.”

Nevertheless, a day to honor fathers unofficially continued. When World War II began, advertisers stated that celebrating Father’s Day was a way to honor American troops and support the war effort and by the end of the war, although it wasn’t a proclaimed holiday, Father’s Day was celebrated. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson issued a public statement declaring the third Sunday in June the official day to observe Father’s Day. Finally, in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making the day permanent.

It is estimated that on this Father’s Day 80 million cards will be given. Half of those will say, “Happy Father’s Day.” One fifth will say, “To my Husband.” Others will be given to grandfathers, fathers, uncles, sons. But very few cards will feature a necktie – the traditional least favorite Father’s Day gift.

Maybe the necktie is why Father’s Day was proclaimed 58 years later than Mother’s Day.

Maybe because the powers who were, the congressmen and presidents, didn’t want to create a holiday that their children would give them ugly ties. Ties they would have to wear.

Happy Father’s Day!

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