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Father's Day & Women's History

In 1898, Sonora Smart Dodd's mother had died giving birth to her sixth child. Sonora, never forgot how her father rallied to raise his children. "I remember everything about him," she once recalled. "He was both a father and a mother to me and my brothers."

In 1909, the year after the first Mother's Day (post May 8), Sonora listened to a Mother's Day sermon at the Central Methodist Episcopal Church in Spokane, Washington. After the service, she approached the priest and said, "I liked everything you said about motherhood. However, don't you think fathers deserve a place in the sun too?"

Through her efforts, the first Father's Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910, in Spokane. Red roses represented living fathers. White roses represents deceased fathers.

A painter and poet who, with her husband, ran a funeral home in Spokane, Sonora energetically promoted her idea, lobbying local, state, and national officials and civic organization. Although slower to capture people's hearts and commercial interests, Father Day's was finally officially recognized by a presidential proclamation signed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson in1966. In 1972, President Richard Nixon made Father's Day a national observance to be held on the 3rd Sunday of June.

Sonora Smart Dodd died at the age of ninety-six in 1978, four years after she had been honored at the World's Fair in Spokane.

Images (click to enlarge): Photograph of Sonora Smart Dodd; Obituary, The Missoulian, (Missoula, MT), March 23, 1978, p. 2; Sonora's gravestone and memorial to her and her father, William Jackson Smart, in Greenwood Memorial Terrace, Spokane, Washington; entry from "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" crediting "Mrs. John Bruce Dodd," i.e., Sonora Louise Smart Dodd, as the creator of Father's Day.

(Sonora was born in Jenny Lind, Arkansas, one of several towns named after the singer known as the "Swedish Nightingale." Her 150-concert tour in America in 1850 is a fascinating story that I've added to my list of upcoming blog posts.)

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