Father’s Day and Disaster

Father's Day and Disaster

Father’s Day began with a disaster. The holiday was first observed as a memorial to fathers lost in the worst mining disaster in American history at Monongah, West Virginia in 1907.

Mrs. Grace Golden Clayton organized that first Father’s Day at Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church in Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5, 1908. Mrs. Clayton chose the date since is was close to her own father’s birthday, but it must have been overshadowed by observance of the Nation’s Birthday the day before, and was not repeated.

Two years later, Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane convinced Reverend Dr. Conrad Bluhm of Old Centenary Presbyterian Church, the Spokane YMCA. and the Ministerial Alliance to commemorate fathers with a holiday on the order of Mother’s Day. Sonora suggested June 5th, her own father’s birthday, but the clergymen needed a two more weeks to prepare, so Spokane celebrated fathers on June 19, 1910. Mrs. Dodd became a Spokane business woman and philanthropist and continued to campaign for the holiday, and became known as “The Mother of Father’s Day.”

Richard Nixon signed a proclamation naming the third Sunday in June Father’s Day in 1972. That’s also when the people of West Virginia remembered Mrs. Clayton. They remember the Monongah Coal Mine Disaster all too well. Among the 362 men and boys killed were 210 fathers.

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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