Father's Day Took Decades to Become a National Holiday

a father and sonThe Father’s Day holiday was not an inevitability. Mother’s Day was actually the inspiration for Father’s Day in the United States. However, it was a lot easier to make Mother’s Day a holiday than it ever was to make Father’s Day one. According to historians, it was believed it was because fathers did not hold the same sentimental value as mothers.


The first Father’s Day was celebrated in Washington on June 19, 1910 after a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd (who was one of six children raised by her widower father after her mother died) wanted to create the holiday. She was successful in making it a state holiday but it would be a while before it became national. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge expressed that he wanted states to observe Father’s day, but it wasn’t until 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed it into law that Father’s Day became a federal holiday. Mother’s Day, on the other hand, only took six years to become a federal holiday after one woman was inspired to make it so in 1908.


Father’s Day was often met with a lot of backlash throughout the years. According to historians this is because men thought the holiday was an attempt “to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift giving.” Fathers were thought of as manly and masculine and Father’s Day was thought of as a way to make father’s feminine. Men used to be expected to be the sole breadwinners of the household and now the expectations have shifted towards being more family oriented.


Men are now expected to be a bigger help with childcare and other "domestic" chores, creating an interesting challenge that many men may not have experienced before. There is now a struggle within fathers between their work and home life. According to a Pew Research study men have taken on more household chores and child caring over the past 50 years. And the shift is pretty significant. There is a push now to create legitimacy for men in the home that is equal to a woman’s legitimacy in the home.


Fathers are a lot more emotionally engaged now and no longer mirror the bumbling caricatures shown to us on tv (i.e Ray Ramano from Everybody Loves Raymond, Homer Simpson from The Simpsons). Fathers now are similar to Jack Pearson (This is Us), Phil Dunphy (Modern Family) and Andre Johnson (Blackish). These fathers are expressive and care about their kids wellbeing and that is reflective of our changing view of what fatherhood truly means in society.


This year Father’s Day is on June 18. Celebrate knowing it took a long while to get the appreciation they deserve and that fathers everywhere are trying their hardest to be better.


By Sabrina Petrafesa