Sonora Smart Dodd was born and raised in Arkansas. At the age of 7, she moved with her family to Spokane, Washington. When she was 16 years old, her mother died during childbirth. As the oldest child and only daughter of six children, she helped her widowed father raise her siblings, including her newborn brother. At 17, she married John Bruce Dodd, one of the founders of Ball & Dodd Funeral Home, where she later became a part-owner and served as its vice president for 30 years.
In 1909, during a church sermon, Dodd heard about the newly recognized celebrations of Mother’s Day. She thought that fathers also deserve a day of honor, and there should be an official recognition of the devotion and braveness of fathers, such as her civil war veteran single dad. She presented her idea to the Spokane Ministerial Alliance, offering June 5, her father’s birthday, as the day of honor. The Alliance accepted her suggestion but chose the third Sunday of June as the annual celebration, and on June 19, 1910, the first Father’s Day was celebrated in Spokane, WA.
In its first years, Father’s Day was celebrated in fatherhood-themed church sermons that included giving bouquets to the father with the most children, the father with the youngest child, or the oldest men in the congregation.
Over time, the day became popular throughout the country, and Father’s Day committees were founded in Virginia in 1921 and NYC in 1936. The day had many supporters, including Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge, though it has not been formalized nationally. Dodd continued to promote the recognition of the day, partnering with local businesses and lobbying groups of various manufactures, such as menswear, whiskey, tobacco, and greeting cards. Eventually, in 1966, President Johnson signed a presidential proclamation stating the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. In 1972, after 63 years of hard work, 90 years old Dodd lived to see President Nixon establishing Father’s Day as a nationally observed holiday.
In addition to her lifetime advocacy for nationalizing Father’s Day, Dodd was a working artist and a poet. In her 30s, she studied painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, later working as a teacher there. She died at the age of 96.
A short documentary about father's day history
This documentary shows the story of the father's day celebrated in 15th of June, watch it on CYC
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- She had one son.
- In the 1920s, she worked in fashion design in Hollywood.
- She was an active member of the Spokane chapter of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.
- She wrote and illustrated a series of children’s books about the Native Americans of Spokane titled Children of the Sun.
- She was honored at the Expo World's Fair of 1974.
- She is honored with a bronze memorial plaque installed near the YMCA in Spokane. The plaque title is - The Mother of Father's Day.
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A short documentary about father's day historyThis documentary shows the story of the father's day celebrated in 15th of June, watch it on CYC
This post is also available in: Español