How a Mining Disaster Inspired a Grieving Daughter to Form an International Holiday

Wishing a very Happy Father’s Day to all fathers out there! Although, have you ever wondered how, why and when the holiday came about? This article will provide all you need to know about how Father’s Day was developed and why it is celebrated.

When Is Father’s Day Celebrated?

Technically, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June each year. In 2019, the celebration falls on the 16th of June in the United Kingdom. On this day, fathers across the globe are presented with gifts and cards, with silver and pewter gifts being especially popular, and some families take their fathers out for special events. It is common for young children to make handmade gifts at school or during extracurricular clubs, such as paintings, cards or drawings.

Over the years, family structures and societies have changed with people celebrating stepfathers and fathers on Father’s Day. In recent years, there has been a call for an official Stepfather’s Day; however, no day for this celebration has yet been introduced or even discussed.

Why Do People Celebrate Father’s Day?

Father’s Day is a celebration that originated in the United States following the initial observation of Mother’s Day in 1908. Anna Jarvis, an American social activist, lobbied for a day to celebrate mothers in the United States, dedicating her life to feminist activism after her mother died in 1905. Oddly enough, while the United States Congress denied Jarvis’ bid for an official day to celebrate mothers in 1908, people in all US states began celebrating Mother’s Day. By 1911, it was an official holiday.

The woman who prompted the development of Father’s Day in 1908 was Grace Golden Clayton from Fairmont, West Virginia. Inspired by Anna Jarvis’ campaign for Mother’s Day, Grace Golden Clayton requested that the fathers involved in the Monongah Mining Disaster of December 1907 be honoured. This 1907 mining disaster resulted in 360 fatalities with 210 fathers, and Golden Clayton stated that the children of these men needed time to honour their fathers.

Golden Clayton’s father, Reverend Fletcher Golden had died several years beforehand; however, she recommended that the date on which the fathers would be remembered should be set on the Sunday nearest to his birthday to honour him as well. His birthday was on 8th July. Unfortunately, the event was not promoted outside of Fairmont, West Virginia and had minimal impact on other states because of its close timing to Independence Day on the 4th of July.

After hearing a sermon in 1909 regarding the background for Mother’s Day, Sonoro Smart Dodd (a young woman from Washington) informed her pastor that all fathers should be remembered in the same manner.

When Did Father’s Day Become Official?

The very first official Father’s Day was held in Spokane during 1910 at the YMCA and was soon followed by several other cities across the United States of America. Support for the holiday increased rapidly, and President Calvin Coolidge pushed for state governments to accept the date in 1924.

The first presidential proclamation honouring Father’s Day was issued in 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson stating that the third Sunday in June was to be officially celebrated as Father’s Day. President Richard Nixon signed this proclamation into legislation in 1972, establishing the date as a national holiday in the United States of America. Unfortunately, Father’s Day does not have this status in the United Kingdom.

The move from proclamation to legislation came after a campaign by various public figures wrote to Congress. In the campaign, it is stated that people should honour both parents or desist from honouring either one – to single out one of the parents, but omit the other is considered one of the greatest insults possible.

The United Kingdom is said to have adopted Father’s Day from the United States following World War II. While Grace Golden Clayton initially campaigned for a day to honour fathers who died in a mining accident, the day now exists to honour fathers across the globe.

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