undated photo of Sonora Smart Dodd, with two Boy Scouts and a Civil War veteran

Father’s Day has Methodist historical ties

To all you dads out there: While you’re relaxing and enjoying tributes on your special day June 21, don’t forget to thank a Methodist for Father’s Day. Two former Methodist Episcopal churches–one in Washington state, the other in West Virginia–can lay claim to originating this annual paternal tribute. In 1909 in Spokane, Wash., Sonora Smart Dodd (pictured here with two Boy Scouts and a Civil War veteran) was inspired by a Mother’s Day sermon at Central Methodist Episcopal Church to honor her father who raised her and five siblings alone after their mother died. She proposed to local religious leaders a special day to honor and fathers everywhere, and it gained wide acceptance. June 19, 1910, was celebrated by churches there as the first Father’s Day. And when news of the observance spread across the country Father’s Day became popular nationally. Meanwhile, another Methodist church in Fairmont, W.Va., had been celebrating Father’s Day already for two years after a nearby mine explosion in 1907 claimed the lives of more than 360 men. Most of them had families, and the tragedy left 1,000 children fatherless. Learn more