Father's Day holds a special place in our hearts as a day dedicated to honoring and celebrating the love, support, and sacrifices of the father figures in our lives.

People may not know the fascinating history behind the origins of Father's Day.

This comprehensive blog post will take you on a journey through the events that led to the establishment of this significant day. Together, let's delve into the origin of Father's Day and pay tribute to dads worldwide.

Father's Day Origin: From Heartache to Celebration

The origins of Father's Day can be traced back to the early 20th century in the United States.

The catalyst for this holiday was a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, who wanted to honor her father, a Civil War veteran, and widower who raised six children on his own after their mother passed away.

A Daughter's Initiative: Sonora Smart Dodd's Vision

In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd was attending a church sermon on Mother's Day in Spokane, Washington.

Sonora Smart Dodd - Encyclopedia of Arkansas

While she appreciated the sentiment behind Mother's Day, she realized that there were no equivalent recognition and celebration of fathers.

Deeply inspired by her father's love, strength, and devotion to his children, Dodd resolved to create a day for father figures. Her goal was to establish a celebratory day for fathers, similar to Mother's Day, and thus began her tireless campaign to make her vision a reality.

A Long Road: The Push for Official Recognition - Father's Day Timeline

Father's Day is a special day dedicated to fathers and father figures and their contributions to the family and society.

1908

The very first-ever Father's Day celebration in the United States took place on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia.

Grace Golden Clayton - Wikipedia

It was organized by Mrs. Grace Golden Clayton, who suggested the day as a way to honor the 210 fathers who had lost their lives in the Monongah Mining disaster. The celebration included a sermon at the local church and a picnic, among other activities.

Monongah Mining Disaster - Wikipedia

The Monongah mining disaster of Monongah, West Virginia occurred on December 6, 1907, and has been described as "the worst mining disaster in American history." 362 miners were killed. The explosion occurred in Fairmont Coal Company’s No. 6 and No. 8 mines and was one of the contributing events leading to the creation of the United States Bureau of Mines.

The disaster

On Friday, December 6, 1907, there were officially 420 men in the two mines, although the actual number was much higher as officially registered workers often took their children and other relatives into the mine to help.

At 10:28 AM, an explosion occurred in one section of the mine, followed by a larger explosion in another area, instantly killing most of those inside. 

The blast caused considerable damage to both the mine and the surface. The ventilation systems, necessary to keep fresh air supplied to the mine, were destroyed, along with many railcars and other equipment. The entrance and ventilation fan of No. 8 mine were destroyed, "but did little damage to No. 6 slope."

Inside the mine, the timbers supporting the roof were blown down, which caused further problems as the roof collapsed. 

An official cause of the explosion was not determined, but investigators at the time believed that an electrical spark or one of the miners' open flame lamps ignited coal dust or methane gas.

Rescue attempts

The first volunteer rescuers entered the two mines twenty-five minutes after the initial explosion. The biggest threats to rescuers were the fumes, particularly “blackdamp”, a mix of carbon dioxide and nitrogen that contains no oxygen, and “whitedamp”, which is carbon monoxide. 

The lack of breathing apparatus at the time made venturing into these areas impossible. Rescuers could only stay in the mine for 15 minutes at a time. In a vain effort to protect themselves, some of the miners tried to cover their faces with jackets or other pieces of cloth. While this might have been able to filter out particulate matter, it would not have been able to protect the miners in an oxygen-free environment.

The toxic fume problems were compounded by the infrastructural damage caused by the initial explosion: mines require large ventilation fans to prevent toxic gas buildup, and the explosion at Monongah had destroyed all of the ventilation equipment in No. 8 mine and disabled the fan in No. 6 mine. Rescuers were eventually able to reconnect the No. 6 fan, but the inability to clear the mine of gases further delayed and complicated rescue and recovery efforts.

One Polish miner was rescued, and four Italian miners escaped. The official death toll stood at 362, 171 of them Italian migrants from San Giovanni in Fiore. 

Others killed in the disaster included Russians, Greeks, and immigrant workers from Austria-Hungary. 216 women were widowed, and the miners left behind 475 children, with a further 31 born after the disaster.

As a result of the explosion along with other disasters, the public began demanding additional oversight to help regulate the mines. 

In 1910 Congress created the United States Bureau of Mines, with the goal of investigating and inspecting mines to reduce explosions and to limit the waste of human and natural resources. In addition, the Bureau of Mines set up field officers that would train mine crews, provide rescue services, and investigate disasters.

However, it was Sonora Smart Dodd who played a more instrumental role in establishing Father's Day as a national holiday.

1909

As we now know, the origins of Father's Day date back to the early 20th century.

So, in 1909 while Sonora was listening to that Mother's Day (which had been established just a few years earlier) sermon, she became bothered by the fact that there was no similar day or event honoring fathers.

It was then that Sonora was inspired to honor her father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, who raised her and her five brothers after their mother died during childbirth in 1898.

William Jackson Scott - abc NEWS

Sonora tirelessly campaigned for it to become a recognized occasion, working with local and national leaders to make it happen. Her efforts eventually paid off, and on June 19, 1910, the state of Washington became the first state to officially recognize Father's Day.

Her idea spread across the country, and by the 1920s, Father's Day started being celebrated in different states.

Despite this, it still took several decades for the holiday to be recognized nationally.

In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge supported the concept of a national Father's Day, but he did not sign it into law due to concerns that the holiday would become too commercialized.

It wasn't until 1966 that President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first official proclamation designating the third Sunday of June as Father's Day.

And finally, in 1972 President Richard Nixon signed Father's Day into law as a permanent national holiday, making Dodd's decades-long dream a reality.

Born in 1882, Sonora Louise Smart Dodd passed away in 1978, at the age of 96.

Sonora, we thank you...



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