By Graham McDonald
In 1909, John and Sonora Dodd attended the Mother's Day service at their church. As Sonora listened to the sermon and heard the virtues of mothers and motherhood from the Scriptures, her mind went back to her childhood. She thought of how important fathers are in raising children and she thought of the notion of a Father's Day.
Sonora's father William, a Civil War veteran, lost his wife as she gave birth to their sixth child. Sonora was sixteen at the time of her mother's death and being the eldest child, much of the responsibility to raise her five brothers fell on her shoulders.
Through the difficult years following her mother's death, Sonora watched her father care for the six children with love and devotion and saw him make sacrifices in order to give the children better lives.
After the Mother's Day church service in 1909, Sonora felt inspired to campaign for equal recognition of fathers. In June 1910, Sonora approached the Spokane Ministerial Alliance and the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) to establish Father's Day as a holiday in the same fashion as Mother's Day.
Due to the support of these Christian organisations, and Sonora's dedication to the cause, the first Father's Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910.
Sonora wanted Father's Day to be celebrated on the first Sunday in June, which was close to her own father's birthday. However, to allow pastors enough time to prepare a service, the first Father's Day was pushed back to the third Sunday of June.
Local businesses that had already profited from the Mother's Day celebration started taking out newspaper ads with a Father's Day theme. Many trade groups that would benefit most, for example manufacturers of ties, belts and braces, helped Sonora to receive national coverage for Father's Day.
President Woodrow Wilson approved of Father's Day in 1916, and by 1919, when Sonora's father – the man who inspired the holiday – died, Father's Day was a popular occasion and celebration across The United States of America.
Sonora was honoured as the founder of 'Father's Day' at the 1940 New York World Trade Fair for her contribution to commerce.
Some 72 countries celebrate Father's Day on the third Sunday in June, whereas Australia, New Zealand and some of the Pacific Islands celebrate this event on the first Sunday in September.
Sonora Dodd's efforts to celebrate and promote Father's Day were a practical expression of the fifth of the Ten Commandments: "Honour your Father and your Mother."?
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