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Yes, Father’s Day started in Spokane, Washington

Spokane resident Sonora Smart Dodd, whose father raised her and her five siblings after their mother died in childbirth, started Father’s Day in 1910.
Credit: City of Spokane
The Dodd House honoring Sonora Smart Dodd, who started Father's Day in Spokane, Washington, more than 100 years ago.

Whether you’re barbecuing, going out for a round of golf or having a family brunch, many families will celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, June 19, as a time to appreciate the father figures in their lives.

Though it’s been an official federal holiday for only half a century, one Twitter user claimed that the first Father’s Day celebration was held in Spokane, Washington, more than 100 years ago in 1910. 

THE QUESTION

Was the first Father’s Day celebrated in Spokane, Washington?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, the first Father’s Day was celebrated in Spokane, Washington. 

WHAT WE FOUND

Spokane is the second largest city in Washington state, behind Seattle, and it’s sunnier, too.

Spokane is home to many large events and historical landmarks, including the childhood home of late actor and Christmas crooner Bing Crosby, the annual Bloomsday run, and the world’s largest three-on-three basketball tournament called Hoopfest. The city also hosted the 1974 World’s Fair. 

But what some people may not know is that Spokane is also the birthplace of Father’s Day, according to the city and other sources.

Spokane resident Sonora Smart Dodd, whose father raised her and her five siblings after their mother died in childbirth, started Father’s Day in 1910, the city said

Dodd is said to have had the idea for the holiday while listening to a Methodist church sermon, with Encyclopedia Britannica noting that it was delivered on Mother’s Day in 1909.

Religious leaders and the local YMCA signed a petition started by Dodd to create a day honoring fathers. Then, on June 19, 1910, Spokane’s mayor and Washington state’s governor signed proclamations to celebrate the first Father’s Day, according to the city. Dodd’s father was born in June, Encyclopedia Britannica says. 

The City of Spokane says Dodd advocated for the following 60 years for Father’s Day to become a national holiday. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation in 1966 calling for the third Sunday in June to be recognized as Father’s Day. Six years later, in 1972, President Richard Nixon made Father’s Day a permanent national holiday

Most countries, including the United States, now celebrate Father’s Day annually on June 19, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

According to Spokane’s Historic Preservation Office, Dodd’s contributions were summarized in part by local newspaper the Spokesman-Review at her death in 1978 as follows: “Honor for thousands of fathers everywhere and for her home city through [the] establishment of Father’s Day is an everlasting epitaph for Mrs. John Bruce Dodd.”

The historic Father’s Day home in Spokane, where Dodd lived from 1913 to 1950, went on the market for $220,000 in 2017, VERIFY sister station KREM 2 reported, and was later sold. It was built for Dodd and her husband, John Bruce Dodd, who was a businessman and insurance agent. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home was described as a “craftsman-style bungalow” that was “lovingly restored and maintained.”

The Dodd House was added to the Spokane Register of Historic Places in January 2008, followed by the National Register of Historic Places in July 2010.

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