Mandan News

A look back: Father’s Day

By Dustin White
Mandan News, editor

Father’s Day has historically struggled to receive the same success as it’s Mother’s Day counterpart. While Mother’s Day quickly took off after being introduced, Father’s Day nearly became lost to history.

The first celebration of Father’s Day occurred around the same time as Anna Jarvis was organizing to get Mother’s Day recognized as an official holiday. Jarvis’ efforts would inspire another woman, Sonora Smart Dodd to try to establish a similar day of recognition for fathers.

Dodd was one of six children raised by a widower. Witnessing the work in which her father had to go through in order to raise her siblings and herself, in 1909, she petitioned her local minister to have a similar celebration as churches were doing for mother’s. Initially she suggested June 5, as the date, her father’s birthday, but as the pastor did not have enough time to organize such a celebration, it was deferred to the third Sunday of June.

The initial response was promising, the mayor of Spokane and governor of Washington to issue proclamations establishing the day as the third Sunday in June. William Jennings Bryan, a renowned orator of the time also took the time to speak in favor of the celebration, having said that “too much emphasis cannot be placed upon the relation between parent and child.”

Support for the holiday would wane throughout the next couple of decades though. While President Woodrow Wilson would verbally approve Father’s Day in 1916, just two years after proclaiming May 9 as Mother’s Day, support to make it an official holiday was not there. Many feared of the commercialization the day would suffer if it became an official observance.

The momentum of Father’s Day would wane more when Dodd left Spokane in order to study at the Art Institute in Chicago, in the 1920s. Father’s Day celebrations through the next few decades would become sporadic across the nation. With Dodd no longer being a prime mover of the holiday, much of the effort moved onto the shoulders of corporations who struggled to try to commercialize the observance, as they had with Mother’s Day.

At the same time, groups were encouraging a consolidation of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day into one holiday honoring all parents. Pro-Parent’s Day groups may have ended up succeeding; however, with the country falling into the Depression, their effort ground to a halt.

With retailers and advertisers struggling, they redoubled their efforts to commercialize Father’s Day. The intention was to make the day like a “second Christmas” for men, by promoting items such as neckties, socks, pipes and tobacco, as well as sporting goods.

When the United States entered into WWII, the retailers and advertisers found another foothold, by promoting Father’s Day as a way to honor American troops and support the war effort. These efforts did pay off, to a point. While the day would not be officially recognized as a holiday, it had become a national institution.

Even with being recognized as a national institution, there was still a lack of support for the day to be officially recognized as a holiday. With the success Father’s Day gained, there also came major backlash. Seeing the promotion of such a holiday as just another way for businesses to try to replicate the commercial success of Mother’s Day, newspapers attacked the day with cynical and sarcastic jokes.

Striking back, retailers and advertisers incorporated the same jokes that newspapers were making into their own advertising. By the mid-1980’s, the Father’s Council would write that “…[Father’s Day] has become a Second Christmas for all the men’s gift-oriented industries.”

After many years of campaigning, and the push from the business sector, in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson declared the third Sunday in June as the official day to observe Father’s day. It would still take another six years for the day to receive permanence, but in 1972, 58 years after Mother’s Day received official recognition, President Richard Nixon would sign a proclamation which gave Father’s Day the official status it holds today.

Even with the official status Father’s Day now holds, there are still those who criticize the day. With individuals who don’t believe that father’s need or want sentimental praise, tacky gifts and put-down cards abound. However, research conducted by the Hallmark Corporation revealed that fathers do want to feel appreciated.