Ties displayed at Virden Pioneer Home Museum

Happy Fathers' Day - the history


Curator’s Corner By Megan Holowick

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As of course, we all know, Sunday, June 20th will be Father’s Day. This is a time to celebrate your dad, but do you know the history of this day?

Some of you may know that Mother’s Day was established as a holiday in the United States in the year 1908. It was not until two years later where fathers got to have their recognition official as well.

This started with a woman from Arkansas, Sonora Smart Dodd. She was the daughter of a widowed man, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, who raised her and five siblings alone after their mother died.

Sonora was inspired by her father so much that she started a campaign to get all fathers recognized for their contribution to raising families. She campaigned at the local government of Spokane, Washington (where she and her husband moved to), churches, and other organizations to have fathers recognized for their contributions.

Her first success was in Spokane, where Washington state declared June 19th (her father’s birthday) as Father’s Day. Sonora tried to have Father’s Day recognized as an official holiday, but this did not occur until 1970. Canada would follow shortly after and now it is celebrated on the third Sunday in June.  

Father’s Day is even celebrated all over the world. Like the United States and Canada, Cuba, Greece, Sri Lanka, and Japan celebrate it on the third of June. Other counties celebrate the day at other times such as Uruguay (second Sunday in July), Brazil (second Sunday in August), and Australia and New Zealand (first Sunday in September).  

On the first Father’s Day, a father’s family would wear a red rose (or a white rose if the father was deceased). In Spokane, churches gave sermons the reflected on the idea of fatherhood. Even the mayor of Spokane gave a speech dedicated to fathers for their new day.

Today, popular Father’s Day gifts include ties, golf clubs, and hammers, which you can come to see their ancestors (early versions of these items) at the Virden Pioneer Home Museum when we become open to the public again.

So, wish your dad or any other male figure in your life a happy Father’s Day!


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