June 17, 2015

The History of Father’s Day

Officially, “Father’s Day” was established as a permanent national holiday by President Richard Nixon, in 1972; though several presidents and many activists had tried unsuccessfully to get Father’s Day to be included on the official calendar of both local and national governments since 1911.

Historically, it can be argued that the reason for issuing a national holiday to recognize the parental contribution of dads was not so much to mirror the already accepted day to recognize mothers (Mother’s Day – second Sunday in May) as it was to appreciate the very real contribution fathers make in the home as well as the irrevocable loss that incurs, to children, when they are absent. The Monongah mining disaster of 1908 and a lady by the name of Grace Golden Clayton, tells that story.

Grace Golden Clayton may have been inspired by Anna Jarvis’ crusade to establish Mother’s Day; two months prior, Jarvis had held a celebration for her dead mother in Grafton, West Virginia, a town about 15 miles (24 km) away from Fairmont.

After the success obtained by Anna Jarvis with the promotion of Mother’s Day in Grafton, West Virginia, the first observance of a “Father’s Day” was held on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia, in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, now known as Central United Methodist Church. Grace Golden Clayton was mourning the loss of her father when, on December 1907, the Monongah Mining Disaster in nearby Monongah killed 361 men, 250 of them fathers, leaving around a thousand fatherless children. Clayton suggested her pastor Robert Thomas Webb to honor all those fathers…which they did that one year.

Two years later a similar event would be held in Seattle, Washington, led by a man named Sonora Smart Dodd. He and his local celebration ultimately got national attention, including President Woodrow Wilson who spoke at the event in 1916. Then, after nearly six decades of stonewalling by Congress, who feared that national recognition would simply lend to the commercialization of the holiday, as it had with Mother’s Day, the US Congress gave their approval and President Nixon signed it into law.

“So what” or “so now what”?

Clayton and Dodd had it right and they didn’t need Congressional approval to do it – to honor their fathers, who they respected for the contribution they made to their lives. And that strikes a cord with me and begs a question.

Do we American Fathers look forward to our day – to “Dad’s day” because we get a nationally recognized, mandatory, national holiday in our honor? Do American children cringe at the necessity of getting Dad something for Father’s day, cause they have to, it’s a national expectation? Or do we align with the holiday in the spirit of Clayton and Dodd; we want to say thanks to a father, for a job well done; out of love, appreciation and respect?

If not, how do we get there?

We get there the old fashion way and it begins with dads when the children are small.

God has given men, not only a domestic assignment, God has given them the formula for honor. If men will invest in the rearing of their children; leading them spiritually (Deuteronomy 6:4-7), nurturing them spiritually, emotionally and physically (Ephesians 6:4), and guiding them individually (Proverbs 22:6) men will produce, not only a godly, growing family (Psalm 128) but produce a personal legacy that substantiates their investment in the home.

When fathers are engaged, in the home, with their children, they will not only enjoy true appreciation from their family on the third Sunday of each June, but enjoy a deep and satisfying relationship with their adult children, all year, all lifelong.

I guess you could argue that any President can establish a national holiday but only an engaged Father can establish an honorable home.

What are you establishing?

Article by Jim Coté – President of Master’s Men