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Sonora Louise Smart Dodd (1882–1978)

Sonora Louise Smart Dodd is known as the “Mother of Father’s Day.” She began trying to make Father’s Day an officially recognized holiday in 1909.

Sonora Smart was born on February 18, 1882, in Jenny Lind (Sebastian County), the daughter of William Jackson Smart, a farmer and Civil War veteran, and Ellen Victoria Cheek Smart. She was the oldest of six children and the only girl. When Smart was five years old, her family left Arkansas and settled in Spokane, Washington, where she lived for the rest of her life. In 1898, her mother died in childbirth, and Smart helped her father raise her younger brothers.

Smart married John Bruce Dodd, an insurance agent, on November 4, 1899, and they had a son, Jack Dodd, in 1909. In 1909, Dodd heard a church sermon about Mother’s Day, which had recently become a recognized holiday, and she wondered why there was no Father’s Day. On June 6, 1910, Dodd suggested establishing such a holiday to the Spokane Ministerial Association and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The first Father’s Day was celebrated in Spokane on June 19, 1910, fourteen days after Dodd’s father’s birthday.

Although the proposed holiday gained many supporters over the years, including Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge, it took several decades to be nationally recognized. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared June 19 of that year to be Father’s Day. Finally, in 1972, President Richard M. Nixon made Father’s Day a permanent national holiday to be observed annually the third Sunday of June.

In addition to her work establishing Father’s Day, Dodd was an artist and a poet, and she wrote a children’s book about the Native Americans of Spokane.

Dodd died on March 22, 1978, and is buried in Greenwood Memorial Terrace in Spokane.

For additional information:
“Arkansas Native, Proposer of Father’s Day Dies at 96.” Arkansas Gazette, March 23, 1978, p. 16A.

“Sonora Louise Smart Dodd.” Father’s Day. http://www.fathersdaycelebration.com/sonora-louise-smart-dodd.html (accessed June 28, 2012).

“Woman Who Celebrated First Father’s Day Dies.” Arkansas Democrat, March 23, 1978, p. 5B.

Magdalena Teske
North Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated 6/28/2012

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