Spokane, The Birthplace of Father's Day

Did you know Father’s Day was actually founded right here in Spokane in 1910? Sonora Smart Dodd, a Spokane native, worked to create the holiday to honor her single father. The Dodd Home, a 2010 addition to the National Register of Historic Places, is a great stop when walking through Spokane’s East Central Neighborhood. Read on to learn more about this historic holiday, and get great ideas on fun outings to celebrate dad this Father’s Day!

Father's Day History

Accounts of the inception of Father’s Day point to one woman: Sonora Smart Dodd. She came up with the idea while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon, in the company of her father, at Central Methodist Church in 1909. Sonora was primarily raised by her father, William Smart, so it is no surprise that she was bothered that mothers received a day of praise while fathers fell by the wayside. Dodd had plenty of reasons to give her father praise. William Smart was a Civil War veteran and cared for his six children after his wife died during childbirth.

Sonora, a prominent member of the Spokane community, took the idea of Father’s Day to the local YMCA. The Spokane YMCA, along with the Ministerial Alliance, endorsed Dodd’s idea and helped spread the word by celebrating the first Father’s Day in 1910.

Father’s Day, however, did not gain national prominence until 1924 when President Calvin Coolidge recognized Father’s Day and encouraged all states to do the same. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed an official proclamation calling for the third Sunday in June to be recognized as Father’s Day. Six years later, President Richard Nixon signed an additional proclamation permanently observing Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June. While Father’s Day has risen to national, and even international, prominence, Spokane will forever be remembered as the holiday’s birthplace.

The Dodd Home

Sonora Smart Dodd lived in Craftsman-style home on South Arthur Street, which was built by her husband, John Bruce Dodd in 1913. During their time residing in the home, Sonora witnessed her idea of the Father’s Day holiday rise to national prominence. Upon her death in 1978, the Spokesman-Review credited both Sonora and her husband for “enriching the religious, civic and cultural life in Spokane,” as well as “giving Spokane credit in the eyes of the nation and the world.”

With this legacy, the Dodd Home is on the National Register of Historic Places, having earned this distinction in 2010 upon the centennial of Spokane’s first Father’s Day celebration. Today, The Dodd Home is a private residence, but the outside can be viewed as part of Historic Spokane’s “East Central Heritage” Tour.