Daddy's Girl

The long history of Father's Day, from Spokane to Congress.

One Sunday morning at the Central United Methodist Church in downtown Spokane, an idea was born. The year was 1909, and the preacher was endorsing Mother’s Day, a new holiday started back in West Virginia that was sweeping the nation. One young woman in the lock could only wonder: “What about Dad?”

By the next year, on June 19, 1910 — a century ago this week — Spokane was first to observe Father’s Day.

Dodd’s father William Smart was worth celebrating. A Civil War veteran who moved his family to Spokane from Arkansas after the war, he raised his six kids after his wife died giving birth to their last child. His daughter’s idea took on a life of its own and was championed by presidents, newspaper editors and even sellers of men’s wear. But despite such support — and the fact that Mother’s Day was adopted as law by Congress in 1914 — it took until 1972 for the holiday to be “officially” recognized by President Richard Nixon.

It’s a fun little footnote to history, and another example of that Spokane knack for big ideas and not giving up on them until they are huge. But this week is also a chance to celebrate Mrs. Dodd, whose father raised her well; she became a noted local philanthropist, wrote poetry and lived to be 96. At Expo ’74, a few years before she died, she was “officially” recognized as the Mother of Father’s Day.

Ted S. McGregor Jr. is the Editor and Publisher of The Inlander.

Vaccination Happy Hour @ Spokane Arena

Wed., June 16, 5-7 p.m.
  • or

About The Author

Ted S. McGregor Jr.

Ted S. McGregor, Jr. grew up in Spokane and attended Gonzaga Prep high school and the University of the Washington. While studying for his Master's in journalism at the University of Missouri, he completed a professional project on starting a weekly newspaper in Spokane. In 1993, he turned that project into reality...