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How a Grieving Daughter was Inspired By a Mining Disaster

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Happy Father’s Day everyone!

Have you ever stopped to wonder where Father’s day came from, and what inspired people to celebrate it? Now’s your chance to learn more about this special holiday.

When is Father’s Day

Father’s Day is always held on the Third Sunday of June.

On this day, fathers are given gifts, such as silver gift items for men, and cards, and some families will take the time to go on a day out or to relax and unwind together. Young children may give their fathers handmade gifts which they put together at a school or an extracurricular club. Those gifts could be drawings, cards or paintings or more sophisticated handicrafts.

Families have evolved a lot, and some families will celebrate stepfathers on Father’s Day. There have been some calls for a special day for step-parents, but so far this has not officially taken on.

Why Celebrate Fathers?

The celebration of Father’s Day started after the first observation of Mother’s Day. Anna Jarvis, a social activist in America lobbied for an official mother’s day after her mother’s death in 1905. While the US Congress refused to make the day a national holiday when the first ‘day’ happened in 1908, by 1911 there were celebrations in all states.

Grace Golden Clayton of Fairmont, West Virginia, opted to observe the first Father’s Day in 1908. She called upon her pastor to honour all fathers, inspired by the Monongah Mining Disaster, which occurred in December 1907. There were 360 men killed in the disaster, of which 210 were fathers, and Clayton argued that the people of the town needed a day to act in remembrance of their fathers. Grace’s father had died in 1896, and she suggested that the Sunday closest to his birthday would have been a good time to honour him and all of the deceased parents as well.

The first celebration of father’s day was not promoted outside of Grace’s home town, and the event had little impact because Independence Day was just a few days before. The day was picked up on the following year when Sonora Smart Dodd of Washington told her pastor that fathers should have a day just like mothers.

Dodd was one of six children, raised by her father, a civil war veteran and a single parent after her mother died during childbirth. It was not until 1910 when the first “Father’s Day” was held at the YMCA in Spokane, and many other towns and cities followed suit, hosting their own events. Over time, support for an official Father’s Day grew, and in 1924 President Calvin Coolidge pressured state governments to have a day to mark the celebration.

The first presidential proclamation in honour of fathers day was made by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966, and he made the Third Sunday in June the official Father’s Day. This was signed into law six years later by President Richard Nixon, and the day became a national holiday in the US. It is not a national holiday in the United Kingdom.

The move had popular support. Senator Margarate Chase Smith had said in 1957 that either we should honour both parents, or desist honouring either of them. Singling out one parent but ignoring the other was seen as an insult. In the United Kingdom, Father’s Day did not become popular until after the Second World War. Now, it is not about honouring parents that were lost, as those in the mining disaster were lost, but it is simply a day of respect and love for all parents who are, or who have been, present in the live’s of their children. Both mothers and fathers deserve to be honoured and this is a day when families can come together to cherish each other and to say ‘thank you’ for the joy that they each bring to those they care dearly about.