Sonora Smart Dodd and the establishment of Father's Day - 1910
Sonora Louise Smart was born in Jenny Lind, Sebastian County, Arkansas in 1882 to farmer William Jackson Smart and his wife Ellen Victoria Cheek Smart. When Sonora was 16, her mother died giving birth to her brother Marshal. Sonora was the only daughter and helped her father in the raising of her younger brothers. This was what also what inspired her in the creation of Father's Day. They moved a lot and then finally settled down near Spokane, Washington. Sonora Smart married John Bruce Dodd and had a son, Jack Dodd, born in 1909.
While listening to a sermon at church on Mother's Day, she thought about all her father had done for her and her siblings and decided fathers should have a day, too. Because Dodd's father was born in June, she encouraged churches in her area, Spokane, Wash., to honor fathers that month. Sonora Smart held her father in great esteem. Sonora felt strongly that Fatherhood needed recognition as well. She approached the Spokane Ministerial Alliance and suggested her own father's birthday of June 5 as the day of honor for fathers. The Alliance chose the third Sunday in June instead. Father's Day was celebrated every year in Spokane prior to being made a national observance.
Sonora Dodd died in 1978, at the age of ninety-six. She was buried in Greenwood Memorial Terrace, Spokane, Washington. There is a monument recognizing Sonora Smart Dodd as the founder of Father's Day near the YMCA in Riverfront Park.
The first Father's Day was celebrated June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington. The idea of Father's Day gradually became popular and accepted by the nation. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson came to Spokane and spoke at Father's Day services. Sonora continued to push for the celebration for 40 years. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father's Day. Finally, in 1972, President Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father's Day to be held on the 3rd Sunday of June
Photo used with permission from Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture/ Eastern Washington State Historical Society.
L87-1.9208-36 = Father's Day Annual Banquet
L2003.14.722 = Sonora Smart Dodd
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Report created May, 2009.
Revised: September 28, 2009; 10/4/2009
Last Modified on August 2, 2011