Father's Day and Richard Nixon

Which U.S. President made Father's Day a national holiday?
And the answer: Richard Nixon.    
Photo credit: public domain. 

President Nixon made Father’s Day official, occurring on the third Sunday every June. The idea was advocated and popularized by Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd, the “mother of Father’s day”, who had been raised by a single dad. Her father had raised her and her five siblings by himself on their farm in Washington.

The origins of Father's Day lay in the early 20th century, not long after the official holiday of Mother's Day was created. In 1908, a woman named Grace Clayton sponsored an event honoring some 200 fathers whose lives were lost in a West Virginia mine explosion the year prior— an event which would mark the first recorded ceremony specifically for fathers. Yet, this didn't mean that Father's Day was anywhere close to becoming a national holiday, much less an annual affair.

However, other advocates stayed on the cause. The following year, in Spokane, Washington, a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd attempted to establish a regional holiday for fathers after being raised by a widower. Dodd attended local churches, the YMCA, and reached out to shopkeepers and government officials alike. Ultimately, Dodd was successful: Washington State celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on June 19, 1910.

After 1910, the holiday began to spread throughout the United States, however, not everyone was too keen. While some men claimed that the holiday was demeaning, others argued for the instatement of Parents' Day, in place of both Mother and Father's Day. Yet, this movement lost momentum by the time of the Great Depression, as retailers used the opportunity to double-down on this "second Christmas" for men. After World War II, Father's Day further offered an excuse to honor troops, and the holiday was cemented in the heart of the American people.

In 1972, in the middle of a difficult re-election campaign, Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday. Today, it is estimated that Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on Father’s Day gifts.

Learn more about the history of Father's Day here.

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