The woman behind the first Father’s Day was Grace Clayton. In Fairmont, West Virginia, in 1908, hundreds of men died in a mining accident that is labeled as the worst mining accident in U.S history.
Grace Clayton, the daughter of a minister, proposed that a service be held to honor all the fathers but to especially honor the ones who had died. At that time, very few people outside of the local area knew about it, and the event was not held again any year after.
Fast forward to 1909, across the county Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington was inspired by the idea of Mother’s Day and wanted to show her appreciation to her father who was a single father to her and her five brothers.
During a Mother’s Day service at church, Sonora (who was only 27 at the time) came up with the idea of Father's Day. Within a few months, she had convinced Spokane Ministerial Association and the YMCA to set aside a Sunday in June to celebrate fathers. June 5th was her father’s birthday, but it was decided to do it on the third Sunday in June so that there was enough time spaced out between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
All of this led up to the first official Father’s Day event that commenced on June 19th of 1910. Sonora hand-delivered presents to fathers who were handicapped. Children from the YMCA wore fresh-cut roses on their lapels - red for the living and white for the dead.
The widely publicized event in Spokane reached Washington D.C., and Senora’s idea started on its way to becoming an official national holiday.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson and his family observed the day. Eight years later, President Calvin Coolidge signed a resolution in favor of Father’s Day. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed an executive order that the holiday should be celebrated on the third Sunday in June, like Sonora and the ministries agreed upon before.
Congress officially passed an act making Father’s Day a national holiday under President Nixon in 1972. Six years later, Sonora passed at age 96.
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