Father’s Day is upon us once again this Sunday, June 18, and while you’ve hopefully already bought dear old Dad a cool gadget or witty card to mark the occasion (and if you haven’t, stop reading this and go get one!), you may have some questions about the holiday. Do we have Hallmark to thank (or curse) for it? Which came first, Father’s Day or Mother’s Day? Read on for answers to those questions and more.
The lore goes that the holiday is the brainchild of two different women. The first, Grace Golden Clayton of West Virginia, suggested to her pastor in 1908 that the church honour fathers, an idea likely inspired by a mining disaster in nearby Monongah the year before that killed 362 men and left 1,000 widows and children.
The other woman, more widely recognised as the creator of Father’s Day, was Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington. Dodd and her five siblings were raised by a single father in a time when that was largely uncommon, and in 1910 she started a petition to recognise the holiday.
The first piece of legislation regarding the day was a 1913 bill by Congress specifying that “[t]he third Sunday in June is Father’s Day.” While its popularity waxed and waned over the years thanks to — no joke — tie manufacturers, it slowly gained popularity from the 1930s to the ’60s. (Read my colleague Phil Edwards’s piece “How the necktie industry saved Father’s Day” to get the whole fascinating story.)
Father’s Day in pop culture
There are at least two (very different) movies about the holiday. The Father’s Day of 1997 stars Robin Williams and Billy Crystal as two strangers who go on a quest to find a boy after the ex they share informs them both, separately, that the kid is their son. Roger Ebert was not a fan, calling it “a brainless feature-length sitcom with too much sit and no com.”
The Father’s Day of 2011 is an “American-Canadian action-horror-comedy” about a quest for revenge against a serial father killer, which has a surprisingly high 71 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
But if you’re looking for something more family-friendly, perhaps featuring Julia Roberts, we assume it’s only a matter of time until someone takes a cue from the late “holiday-themed supervillain” Garry Marshall and unleashes a hellish vision of Father’s Day upon the world.
Mother’s Day still trumps Father’s Day — in retail terms, at least
You may love both your parents equally, but in this aspect, at least, the moms have a clear lead. Though greeting card companies and sporting goods stores now rake in profits every third Sunday in June, there are a few pieces of evidence for Father’s Day being the smaller of the two parent-focused holidays.