Sonora Louise Smart Dodd, a loving daughter from Spokane is renowned as the founder of Father's Day celebration as we see today. It was only through her relentless struggle and firm determination that fathers everywhere are today officially given their due respect.
Father's Day is today celebrated in over thirty countries around the world. When children of all these countries celebrate the day by expressing gratitude for their father, they also owe a “thank you” to Sonora as it was she who thought of idea the of celebrating Father's Day and did everything to ensure that the idea succeeded in its true spirit.
Sonora was born to William and Ellen Smart at Jenny Lind, Arkansas in 1882. When Sonora was five, the Smart family moved to West in search of better life and got settled in Spokane, Washington. When Sonora was 16 years old her mother died while giving birth to her sixth child. Eldest of all children, Sonora realized the enormity of hardships that were to be faced by her father - a Civil War veteran in raising the family. She watched him take care of children with devotion and making endless sacrifices so that his children live better.
Fairly mature at the age of 27, Sonora listened to a Sunday Sermon on Mother's Day in 1909. Loving daughter of a devoted father, Sonora wondered that if there is a day to honor mothers why is there no corresponding day to honor all fathers. The question left a deep impression on her mind and she resolved to get fathers their due respect in the society.
Sonora soon began her campaign for the official recognition of Father's Day. Married and mother of a son by then, she approached the Spokane Ministerial Association and the local Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) with the idea of celebrating Father's Day. Sonora received the support of these two organizations and as a result Spokane celebrated its first Father's Day on June 19, 1910.
Though Sonora wished that Father's Day be celebrated on June 5, her father's birthday, but it so happened that there was not enough time for preparation so the celebrations were deferred to June 19, the third Sunday of June.
Print media, which was trying to promote Mother's Day, gave an extended coverage to the unique Father's Day Celebration of Spokane. This generated interest for the festival amongst the masses. Political leader William Jennings Bryan became one of the earliest supports of Mrs Dodd in her campaign.
Initially there was a lot of hesitation amongst the people. Some even ridiculed the idea but Sonora's determination for establishing Father's Day in US did not shake. Her campaign bore success as people by and large accepted the need to recognize the important role played by a father in raising a child. Soon the day came to be celebrated in several cities across US.
Observing the popularity of the day President Woodrow Wilson approved of the idea of celebrating Father's Day in 1916. And by the time Sonora's father, William Smart died in 1919, Father's Day was a popular occasion in US.
In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge too supported the idea of a national Father's Day. But it was only after the struggle of four decades of Sonora and her supporters that the day officially came to be recognized. President Lyndon Johnson signed a Presidential Proclamation declaring the Third Sunday of June as Father's Day in 1966. But in 1972, President Richard Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father's Day to be held on the third Sunday of June. Efforts of Ms Dodd were appreciated and she came to be officially recognized as the 'Mother of Father's Day'.
Sonora Louise Smart Dodd died in 1978 at the ripe age of 96. Besides doing the noble job of giving father's their due recognition, Sonora gained appreciation for her artwork and her writing for children's book on the Native Americans of Spokane. To mark her significant contribution towards society, a monument was constructed at YMCA, Spokane.