A Brief History of Father’s Day: Daddy’s 24 Hour Pass to Tell His Family to Get Off His Back

“To what do we owe the honor of Father’s Day?” is not the question but rather to whom. Fathers, grandfathers, godfathers, surrogate fathers, and all men that serve in a fatherly capacity owe many thanks to a little girl who protested as a one man parade from church to church in a small state known to some as Washington to commemorate her father in a celebration rivaled to Mother’s Day.

Some time back in 1910, Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, saw fit to honor the father that her siblings and mother no doubt killed during all the stress he acquired from baby diapers, heavy eye bags, and the four jobs he had to take on to support his family up until the day he finally croaked. After hiking from one small hillside church to another, she finally convinced one pastor to support her idea on a given Sunday.  Sadly it was on a Sunday that pastor had already set aside to preach about the importance of giving money to the church. This pastor, who shall remain nameless, was arguably the first pastor noted to swindle his congregation out of money to fill his own pockets however those deep pockets did not affect his beating heart. The Rev. No Name agreed to honor the fathers of his congregation on a third Sunday in June, marking Spokane, Washington to be the first state to celebrate Father’s Day. The pastor was a father as well as a reverend, “Why not double his benefits of a celebration?” he thought.

The day of recognition did not catch on right away. Men in general weren’t tickled pink about having their masculinity teased with flowers and candy, but their egos grew with the thought of having one day devoted to them where they would have both a chance and a right to tell their wives and children “Hell no!” without regret and consequence, as well as an opportunity to be lazy and trifling with no adolescent backtalk or wives to withhold sex for any reason.

When a fatherly chorus of a 24-hour “Hell no!” buzzed across the nation, not surprisingly the perks of Father’s Day caught on like flies to a dead muskrat to some but still not all. Churches up and down dirt roads across state lines used the inspiration of the third Sunday in June (thanks to that little girl and her Washington church house) to ceremonialize baby’s daddies. For the pastors of those churches, their collection plates swelled large enough to buy two chicken coops, enough to serve scrambled eggs for three turns of a season.

Time pressed on. About fourteen years later, then president, Calvin Coolidge caught wind of the effort and urged governments to observe Father’s Day, though the thought was still not completely welcomed with a wide reception. Though some men were smart enough to use the day to their advantage, there were still many who saw it as an opportunity for their wives and children to buy them emasculating gifts with the pay the men earned from their hard jobs. “The nerve of anyone who wishes to celebrate me with gifts using the money that I earn,” they scoffed. They mocked even more the thought of commercial gimmicks to sell more products, again paid for by the man who was being glorified.

Some time between the 1920s and 1930s a movement sparked to scrap both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day altogether, putting in its place a single Parent’s Day. Mothers weren’t having that! Even though the daddies went out into the world to bleed their fingers to bring home laughable pay, the real work took place at home. Women cooked and cleaned, and took care of their screaming babies and spread their legs at night to keep their husbands from beating the crap out of them out of sheer frustration. They felt they were owed a single day of thanks and relaxation for all that they did single-handedly. Fathers felt the same damn way and joined voices in song to say, “Fuck that! We deserve the same rights!”

Retailers and advertisers flipped over backwards to jumpstart sky rocketing prices on neckties, hats, socks, pipes and tobacco, golf clubs and other sporting goods, and greeting cards as the war between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day persisted. By the time of World World II, merchants figured out a way to make Father’s Day stick like an envelope stamp by arguing that celebrating Father’s Day was a way to honor American troops and support the war effort.  After all, nothing is more manly than guns and violence. By the end of the war, Father’s Day was not accepted as a recognizable federal holiday, but it was recognized as a national institution.

And to think, all this came about because one little girl felt the weight of her helping hand to drive her father into an early grave. Sonora Smart Dodd, on behalf of your dead father and all the men around the world, “Thank you.”

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