The Surprising, Controversial Story Behind Father’s Day

Photo: Courtesy of Cultura/REX.
Father's Day (this coming Sunday) is such a well-recognized holiday it can seem like it's always been around — but it's actually pretty recent. And once upon a time, lots of the country's dads were opposed to it.
The holiday was invented by a woman who really liked her dad. Sonora Smart Dodd, a woman from Spokane, WA, was inspired to create Father's Day after listening to a Mother's Day sermon in 1909. "Don’t you think fathers deserve a place in the sun, too?" she is said to have asked the minister. Dodd's own mother had died and she and her siblings had been raised by their father.
Dodd picked June for the celebration (the month of her dad's birthday) and in 1910, the first Father's Day was celebrated in Spokane. The day didn't become official nationwide until 1972, when Nixon officially declared the third Sunday of every June Father's Day.
Apparently, part of the delay was due to male resistance to the idea. NBC writes, "American historian Timothy Marr wrote in American Masculinities: A Historical Encyclopedia that in the holiday's early decades, 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.'"
Despite pushback against the custom of gift-giving, Father's Day remained tied to the retail industry. According to Time, the holiday got official support from the National Dry Goods Retail Organization in 1938, when it announced that it'd work to make Father's Day as big as Mother's Day (which, by then, had become thoroughly commercialized). Other producers and industry leaders, looking to profit off such a wholesome celebration, got behind the efforts and founded the National Council for the Promotion of Father’s Day a year later. Cut to three decades later when the holiday was nationally recognized, thanks in no small part to its commercial success.
Evidently, that success has spread well beyond the United States — Wikipedia lists over 130 countries that celebrate Father's Day throughout the year. Besides the U.S., 75 others celebrate on the third Sunday of June. These include China, India, Japan, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.
Hallmark estimates that 80 million cards will be exchanged this Sunday, making it the fourth biggest card-sending day of the year. If you're not among that 80 million, just remember: Late is better than never!

More from Politics

R29 Original Series