Father’s Day is almost 104 years old. It was celebrated in 1910 in Spokane, Washington, the brainchild of 28-year-old Sonora Louise Smart.
Sonora was born in Sebastian County Arkansas on February 18, 1882 to William Jackson and Ellen Victoria Cheek Smart. She was the oldest of the couple’s six children.
William fought for the Union in the American Civil War as a sergeant in the First Arkansas Light Artillery, joining in 1863 aged just 21. After the war, in 1865, William married his first wife Elizabeth, and the couple had five children, of which four survived infancy.
Elizabeth died in 1878, and two years later, William married Ellen, who had also been married previously, and had three children already herself. The couple’s existing children, plus those they had together, brought their grand total to 14.
In 1889 the family moved to a farm in remote eastern Washington.
When Sonora was 16, her mother died giving birth to her fifth brother. She and her father raised her siblings together, including the new baby, Marshall. William worked tirelessly to provide his children with a better life, and Sonora observed and admired his efforts.
On Mother’s Day in 1909, as she was sitting in church, it occurred to Sonora that she should like to see a day dedicated to wonderful fathers.
Her original intention was that this day should fall on William’s birthday – which was the 5th June. However her application to the Ministerial Alliance was submitted too late for their sermons to be amended, and so the date was shifted to the 19th.
Father’s Day was finally recognised by Presidential Proclamation in 1966 by President Lydon Johnson.
Sonora died in 1978, aged 96.