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Sonora Dodd: Creator of Father's Day

Sonora Dodd

Father's Day Creator


Sonora Louise Smart was born in Jenny Lind, Sebastian County, Arkansas to farmer William Jackson Smart (1842-1919) and his wife Ellen Victoria Cheek Smart (1851-1898). William Smart was a sergeant in the Union's First Arkansas Light Artillery during the Civil War. When Sonora was seven years old, the Smart family moved from Marion, Arkansas to a farm between Creston, Washington and Wilbur, Washington in 1889.

When Sonora was 16, her mother died in childbirth with her sixth child. Sonora was the only daughter and shared with her father William in the raising of her younger brothers, including her new infant brother Marshall. Sonora Smart married John Bruce Dodd (1870-1945), one of the original founders of Ball & Dodd Funeral Home, and had a son, John Bruce "Jack" Dodd, born in 1909.

Smart held her father in great esteem. While hearing a church sermon about the newly recognized Mother's Day at Central Methodist Episcopal Church, Sonora felt strongly that fatherhood needed recognition as well. She approached the Spokane Ministerial Alliance and suggested her own father's birthday, of June 5, as the day of honor for fathers. The Alliance chose the third Sunday in June instead.

The first Father's Day was celebrated June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington. Although observance of the holiday faded in the 1920s, over time, the idea of Father's Day became popular and embraced across the nation. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson sent a telegraph to Spokane praising Father's Day services. William Jennings Bryan was another early admirer of the observance. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father's Day. In 1972, President Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father's Day to be held on the 3rd Sunday of June each year.

Dodd was honored at Expo '74, the World's Fair, in Spokane in 1974. She died four years later at the age of ninety-six, and was buried in Greenwood Memorial Terrace in Spokane.

Besides her advocacy for Father's Day, Dodd was also active in the Spokane chapter of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.

In the 1920s, Dodd spent some time away from Spokane, studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, painting, writing poetry, and working in fashion design in Hollywood.


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