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The nation’s first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910, in the state of Washington. However, it was not until 1972—58 years after President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day official—that the day honoring fathers became a nationwide holiday in the United States. Father’s Day 2021 will occur on Sunday, June 20.
Mother’s Day: Inspiration for Father’s Day
The “Mother’s Day” we celebrate today has its origins in the peace-and-reconciliation campaigns of the post-Civil War era. During the 1860s, at the urging of activist Ann Reeves Jarvis, one divided West Virginia town celebrated “Mother’s Work Days” that brought together the mothers of Confederate and Union soldiers.
However, Mother’s Day did not become a commercial holiday until 1908, when–inspired by Jarvis’s daughter, Anna Jarvis, who wanted to honor her own mother by making Mother’s Day a national holiday–the John Wanamaker department store in Philadelphia sponsored a service dedicated to mothers in its auditorium.
Thanks in large part to this association with retailers, who saw great potential for profit in the holiday, Mother’s Day caught on right away. In 1909, 45 states observed the day, and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson approved a resolution that made the second Sunday in May a holiday in honor of “that tender, gentle army, the mothers of America.”