Skip to main content

Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Father's Day: History and Quick Facts

May 20, 2010 12:00AM

Thanks Dad!

Father's Day

The History

The idea of Father's Day was conceived in Spokane, Washington by Sonora Dodd while she listened to a Mother's Day sermon in 1909.

Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington, first proposed the idea of a father's day in 1909. Mrs. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran who was widowed when his wife died in childbirth with their sixth child. Mrs. Dodd wanted to celebrate the strength and selflessness her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent.

The first Father's Day was observed on June 19, 1910. June was chosen because it was the month of William Smart’s birth. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father's Day. However, the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers was not issued until 1966, when President Lyndon Johnson designated the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. Father's Day has been celebrated annually since 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed the public law that made it permanent.

Father's Day has become a day to not only honor your father, but all men who act as a father figure. Stepfathers, uncles, grandfathers, and adult male friends are all honored on Father's Day. ( )

By the Numbers

  • This is a big day for the 67.8 million fathers in America.
  • Of those fathers, 25.8 million are in married-couple families with children younger than 18. (22% of those are raising three or more kids!)
  • Another 1.7 million dads are single fathers, making up 15% of the single parents in the U.S. About 47% are divorced, 29% never married, 18% are separated and 5% are widowed.
  • Of the 30.2 million dads living with minor children, 85% lived only with their biological children. 11% lived with stepchildren, 4% with adopted kids and 1% with foster children.
  • Nearly 95 million Father’s Day cards were given last year in the United States, making Father’s Day the fourth-largest card-sending occasion.
  • Sons and daughters send 50% of the Father's Day card to their dads. Nearly 20% of Father’s Day cards are purchased by wives for their husbands. That leaves 30% of the cards which go to grandfathers, sons, brothers, uncles and “someone special.” ( US Census Bureau )

Fathers and Children

  • Of the children younger than 6 in the U.S., 53% eat breakfast and 71% eat dinner with their father every day. That compares to 58% and 80% with mom.
  • Another 36% had 15 or more outings with their father in the month before a 2006 survey. On average, fathers read six times a week to their children aged 3 to 5. And 66% of those under-6 kids received praise from dad three or more times a day.
  • The Census Bureau counted 140,000 stay-at-home dads in 2008, caring for 234,000 children. Of these dads, 54% had two or more children and 52% enjoyed a family income of $50,000 or more annually. ( US Census Bureau )