Father’s Day

3rd Sunday in June
June 19, 2011
June 17, 2012
June 16, 2013

Spectators and victims of the Monongah Mine Disaster, 1907

100 years ago the congregation of Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church in Fairmont, West Virginia gathered to pay tribute to the 362 men, many of them fathers, killed at the Monongah Mine disaster of 1907. The victims were largely from poor immigrant families, Italian, Greek, Slav, Polish, and Russian. The accident left 250 women widows and over 1000 children without support.

The July 5 gathering was the suggestion of Fairmont resident Grace Golden Clayton. Clayton had been partly inspired by the first “Mother’s Day” celebration in nearby Grafton, West Virginia. But Clayton is not considered the mother of Father’s Day.

That title went to Sonora Smart Dodd, 3000 miles away in Spokane, Washington. As a teenager Sonora lost her mother who died in childbirth, leaving Sonora’s father to raise Sonora and her 5 brothers.

Sonora Smart Dodd
Sonora Smart Dodd

Sonora reflected on the role of fathers in the family during a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. Thanks to Sonora’s efforts the governor of Washington declared July 19, 1910 the first Father’s Day.

However, unlike Mother’s Day, which went from a single West Virginia observance in 1907 to a national holiday in 1914, Father’s Day had a much harder uphill battle. The idea of Father’s Day was even mocked. In 1914 one New York Times reader wrote:

“Your correspondent of yesterday is quite right in his contention that the establishment of Mother’s Day argues for the appointment of Father’s day as well. It seems to me, however that he does not go far enough. I would suggest the following calendar:

  • Jan. 19,Brother’s Day
  • Feb. 3,Sister’s Day
  • Mar. 10Grandpa’s Day
  • Apr. 12Grandma’s Day
  • May 24Mother’s Day
  • June 13Uncle’s Day
  • July 21Maiden Aunty’s Day
  • Aug. 6Cousin’s Day
  • Sep. 20Father’s Day
  • Oct. 30Baby’s Day
  • Nov. 4Household Pet Day
  • Dec. 31 Slush Day

The Father’s Day movement met with support during the Depression, when businesses hoped to foster a minor Christmas during the summer with a gift-giving holiday devoted to Dad. The support and observance of Father’s Day was augmented during WWII in honor of the fathers in the Armed Forces.

Two early proponents for the establishment of an annual Father’s Day were the National Father’s Day Committee in New York City, founded in 1926, and Harry Meek, of the Chicago Lions Club. Meek spoke around the country in support of the holiday, and suggested the date of June 20, his birthday, to observe it.

There was also a movement to call Mother’s Day “Parents’ Day”. This lost steam in the 1940s when

“The business community essentially had killed it. Mother’s Day followed by Father’s Day was too perfect a setup financially to allow something as gender-nonspecific as Parents’ Day to muck things up.” —“The Modernization of Fatherhood: A Social and Political History”

In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first national Father’s Day, to “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.

In 1956 a joint resolution of Congress recognized Father’s Day. President Lyndon Johnson signed a President proclamation to the effect a decade later. But it wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon established a permanent Father’s Day holiday on the third Sunday in June.

Papa Nestor with newest member of the Nestor clan. Yosemite, 1990

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Incidentally, most of the N.Y. Times’ reader’s holiday suggestions did come to pass, and more, though not all dates are agreed upon:

  • Grandparents’ Day: 1st Sunday after Labor Day (US); February 8 (International); 1st Sunday in October (UK); January 21 & 22 (Poland)
  • Sister’s Day: 1st Sunday in August
  • Brothers and Sisters’ Day: May 2
  • Siblings Day: April 10
  • Aunt’s Day: March 8; 1st Sunday in June
  • Aunts and Uncles’ Day: July 26;
  • Cousins’ Day: July 24
  • National Pet Day: April 10
  • Love Your Pet Day: February 20
  • Kids and Pets Day: April 26 (Why do kids and pets have to share a day?)

No “Slush Day” yet, but July 11 is “Free Slushie Day” at 7-11!


American Masculinities: A Historical Encyclopedia

Grandparents Day

2nd Sunday in September

You are the product of four people. You may not have met all of them, you may not have met any of them, but if just one of them hadn’t existed, well, you wouldn’t be here either.

They’re your Grandfolks. They grew up in a very different world from you, two generations removed.

Grandparents Day is a relatively new creation, compared to Mother’s and Father’s Day. Like those two, we have a West Virginian to thank for its inception. Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade lobbied throughout the 1970’s for a holiday that would recognize the contributions of older adults, namely grandparents. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the second Sunday in September “Grandparents Day”.

Unlike Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Grandparents Day has no apostrophe…

“But it’s an oversight that serves the holiday well. Mrs. McQuade did not envision the holiday as “belonging” to grandparents. Instead, she saw it as a day of celebration involving the whole family, a day to connect the generations.”

The History of Grandparents Day

The September date was chosen to symbolize the autumnal season of life. The Chinese also hold a festival in the ninth month to celebrate and respect their elders. It’s known as Chong Yang, or Double Ninth (9-9). While Grandparents Day in the United States is a minor holiday, largely overlooked in a youth-obsessed culture, holidays that honor elders in Eastern and African cultures have been celebrated for centuries, possibly millennia.

Both in the U.S. and overseas, the roles of grandparents are changing. Many grandparents find themselves as primary caregivers for their grandchildren.

“The number of grandparents raising grandchildren increased by 40% from 1980 to 1990 (National Center for Health Statistics, 1998). In 1996 the NCHS reported that one million American children, lived in a grandparent’s home without a parent present.”

— Access to Academics for All Students

But grandparents are also more athletic and productive than ever before. As one quote goes, “Some of our modern grandparents are so young and spry they help Boy Scouts across the street.

Ellen DeGeneres confirms: “My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.

Henry Youngman tells another success story: “My grandmother is over eighty and still doesn’t need glasses.  Drinks right out of the bottle.

One thing hasn’t changed. There is a special relationship between grandparents and their children’s children. Sam Levenson theorized, “The reason grandchildren and grandparents get along so well is that they have a common enemy.

But perhaps as the the truth is less cynical. As anxiety of child-rearing fades and the end seems nearer than the beginning, grandparents are left with a greater appreciation of what truly matters than anyone else on the planet. They respect the purity and simplicity only children possess—or “borrow” really.

“Grandmothers hold our tiny hands for just a little while… but our hearts forever.”

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Grandmother’s house (It was always “grandmother’s house”, even though it was just as much grandfather’s) was a treasure trove of goodies: “Junkios”—cereals our parents would never allow—chocolate pudding, jell-o, and every type of candy. Afternoons were spent enjoying the Family Film Festival, where we were introduced to the strange, wonderful cinematic magic of our forefathers.

Nothing could compare to the safety and security of grandmother’s house. Grandparents were all-knowing when we were ignorant. As they age and dip into the irretrievable world of Alzheimers’, it’s sad to watch our roles reverse. Not that we’re wise now, we just know what they taught us.

Raksha Bandhan

August 13, 2011

All across India sisters tie special colored bracelets of thread around their brothers’ wrists, as a symbol of protection. Likewise, the thread reminds the brother of his pledge and duty to protect his sister.

The threaded bracelet is called a rakhi and the holiday is Raksha Bandhan, a Hindu and Sikh celebration of brothers and sisters. It falls on the full moon (Shravan Poornima) in August. (August 16, 2008. August 5, 2009.)

There are two main stories of how the tradition came about.

One is that the goddess Draupadi tore a strip from her sari and wrapped it around Krishna’s wounded finger after battle. Later, Krishna returned the favor. When Draupadi’s malevolent brother-in-law attempted to dishonor her by removing her sari, Krishna continuously elongated her sari so she could not be disrobed.

Another is that Shashikala blessed a silken talisman and tied it around Lord Indra’s right wrist to protect him from harm during the battle of gods and demons. The rakhi gave him the strength to defeat them.

The tradition was further popularized during India’s Moghul period in the 16th century. Facing attack from the sultan of Gujarat, Queen Karnavati of Rajasthan sent a sacred Rakhi thread to the Mughal emperor Humayan, to remind him of their special connection and in the hopes of receiving assistance against the enemy.

This year in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, about 700 young men and women at H.K. Arts College reversed the tradition. Boys bestowed Rakhi on the girls as a symbol of determination to stop female foeticide, a crime that is largely responsible for lopsided male:female ratio in India, especially in states like Gujarat where that ratio is 100 to 83.

Female Foeticide in India

Parents’ Day – U.S.

4th Sunday in July

Yes, Parents’ Day is a real, official national holiday, just like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Celebrated on the fourth Sunday in July, it worked its way quietly through Congress in 1994 with bipartisan support and was signed into existence as a national holiday by President Clinton. Parents’ Day has mercifully hovered beneath the commercialism radar. And probably yours as well.

Normally I am not one to promote conspiracy theories on my blog (despite my own personal belief that Hollywood is run by a cadre of aliens from the planet Slebian) but the Parents Day origin story warrants some scrutiny.

In “Parents’ Day: History and Highlights“, political strategist Gary Jarmin writes:

“Gary L. Jarmin, Political Director for the American Freedom Coalition and chief coordinator for the lobbying campaign, originally submitted draft language to Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN) to make Parents’ Day a permanent day of commemoration…Burton introduced H. Res. 236 “to declare July 28, 1994 be recognized as Parents’ Day.” After a successful grassroots lobbying campaign, primarily led and coordinated by the State Directors of the American Freedom Coalition, the Congress adopted the resolution on March 11, 1994.”

According to the International Relations Center

…the American Freedom Coalition is closely tied to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. The Washington Post (March 30, 1988 ) has even described the AFC as a “Moonsponsored lobbying group.”

Yes, this is the same Sun Myung Moon who in 2004 “donned a crown in a Senate office building and declared himself the Messiah while members of Congress watched.” (NYTimes June 24, 2004)

The American Freedom Coalition and the National Parents’ Day Council share the same address as the Sun Myung Moon-sponsored Washington Times: 3600 New York Ave NE, Washington DC.

Members of the Unification Church call Sun Myung Moon “True Father” and his wife as “True Mother”. Collectively, “True Parents”. True Parents’ Day, honoring Moon and his wife, has been celebrated by the Unification Church for decades, though in March, not July.

Whether members of Congress realized exactly who was behind the creation of Parents’ Day is unknown. But it wouldn’t be the first holiday pushed through by less than transparent causes. We must remember that Women’s Day (March 8 ) and Labor Day were both supported by communist organizations, and for that reason met with much resistance, especially in the United States. Here, Women’s Day–celebrated on March 8 in the rest of the world–is barely recognized. And Labor Day–celebrated on May 1 in most countries–is observed in September.

Similarly, politicians in the 1980s hesitated to create Martin Luther King Day because of their belief that King was a communist sympathizer.

Sen. Helms delivered his speech on King on October 3 and later supplemented it with a document of some 300 pages consisting mainly of declassified FBI and other government reports about King’s connections with communists and communist-influenced groups…

Samuel Francis, American Renaissance

Regardless of the motivations behind our holidays, the holidays themselves tend to take on a life of their own over time. Just as the true origins of many religious holidays have been changed and obscured over the centuries, perhaps a hundred years from now the bizarre evolution of Parents’ Day will be supplanted by stories of noble parental deeds.

Today the holiday seems superfluous with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day falling in the preceding months, but who knows? Maybe Parents’ Day will take on a roll Mother’s Day was originally meant to fulfill. Julia Ward Howe called it Mothers’ Day for Peace. It wasn’t about honoring mothers. It was a day for mother’s to come together to work toward the future well-being of their children. To use their power to make the world a better place for the parents of tomorrow.


Mother’s Day

Second Sunday in May

Mother of Hermes! and still youthful Maia!
May I sing to thee
As thou wast hymned on the shore of Baiae?

When the 22 year-old Keats wrote the beginning of his “Ode to Maia,” he had been an orphan for eight years. He was traveling to the seaside town of Teignmouth for the spring, to take care of his brother Tom, who was dying of tuberculosis—the same illness that took their mother and would later take Keats himself.

The first several lines of Keats’ ode were recorded in a letter to a friend: “I wrote them on May-day and intend to finish the ode all in good time.

The ‘good time’ never came. Keats died three years later. The poem was never written.

In Keats’ day it was well-known that May was named for the Greek and Roman goddess of spring, the eldest sister of the seven Pleiades and the mother to Hermes/Mercury by father Zeus/Jupiter. She was also trusted by the philandering Zeus to be his son Arcas’s wet-nurse when his jealous wife Hera turned Arcas’s biological mother into a bear.

Hermes & Maia

Some say our own tradition for dedicating a day to mothers comes out of Maia’s Roman feast. Her day was on the 15th, the Ides (full moon) of the month. Her name not only meant mother, but also “increasing”, referring to the abundance of flora and fauna in spring. (Likewise, the Angles and Saxons called the month “Tri-milchi”, because they could start milking their cows three times a day due to the plentiful grass.)

In other parts of the world, particularly the Middle East, Mother’s Day is celebrated closer to the vernal equinox, while in the U.K., “Mothering Sunday” is celebrated on the Sunday three weeks before Easter, usually in March. Beginning in the 1600s, employers would traditionally give servants the fourth Sunday of Lent off allowing them to attend services at their “mother church”. Mothering Sunday became synonymous for family reunions.

Mother’s Day in America

Mother’s Day in the United States is largely the work of two women.  Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis.

Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe was the abolitionist famous for turning the lackluster lyrics of “John Brown’s Body” into the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” After the Civil War Howe changed her tune–or lyrics actually–to focus on on the women’s suffrage movement and the creation of a “Mothers’ Day for Peace” (note the apostrophe). During the Franco-Prussian War she spoke in London and Paris, and brought the idea of a Mothers’ Day for Peace back home to Boston. The holiday, which she envisioned would be celebrated in June, didn’t get much further than New England, but her Mothers’ Day Proclamation of 1870 stirred women across the country:

“Arise then…women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies, our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

“…Blood does not wipe our dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace…”

Her vision of Mothers’ Day was one of maternal cohesion, women coming together to work for social justice.

But Mother’s Day as we know it—a day on which children celebrate and honor their own mothers—bears more in common with the vision of a West Virginian by the name of Anna Jarvis…

continued: Anna Jarvis — Mother’s Day in America

Mother’s Day in America – Anna Jarvis

continued from Mother’s Day

Ann Jarvis (left) & daughter Anna
Ann Jarvis (left) and daughter Anna

Before Julia Ward Howe began her Mothers’ Day for Peace campaign, another mother, Mrs. Ann Jarvis, had established a network of “Mothers’ Day Friendship Clubs” to improve sanitation conditions throughout West Virginia. She taught other mothers how to disinfect wounds, sterilize bottles, and prevent food from spoiling.

When the Civil War broke out, Jarvis and her clubs refused to take sides. Instead they tended to the wounded of both sides. After the war, having seen the carnage inflicted by and upon Union and Confederate troops, she pushed for the observance of a “Mothers’ Day”. Like Howe, Ann Jarvis’s Mothers’ Day stressed peace and social activism.

It was her daughter however–Anna Jarvis–who created Mother’s Day as we know it.

In 1907 Anna arranged a memorial service for her mother, the previously mentioned Ann Jarvis, who had passed away on May 9, 1905. Determined to help others appreciate their mothers when they were alive, Anna Jarvis held the first official Mother’s Day the following year, on the second Sunday of May, 1908.

Over 100 years ago this weekend, 407 children and their mothers participated at the first Mother’s Day service at the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia.

Andrew Methodist Episcopal Church, Grafton, WV

Anna had a very specific idea of Mother’s Day. It was to be celebrated on Sunday rather than a specific date because it was a ‘holy day’, not a ‘holiday’. (Also, her mother taught Sunday school for 25 years.)

She even specified where the apostrophe was to fall: it was Mother’s Day, not Mothers’ Day. It would be a personal celebration in honor of one’s own mother, rather than for all mothers in general.

This version of Mother’s Day spread quickly–spurred on by the letters of Anna and her friends promoting the holiday. In 1910 West Viriginia became the first state to declare the holiday. Just four years later the resolution passed in both houses of Congress, and Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May “a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”

But by the 1920s the new holiday met with opposition from an unexpected source:

Anna Jarvis herself.

Anna had no idea the commercial epidemic she would unleash upon the American public. Appalled by the materialistic takeover of what was to her a very personal day, she spent much of the rest of her life denouncing the exploitation of the day she had helped to create. She wrote:

A printed card means nothing, except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.

Perhaps the irony is that the younger Jarvis succeeded where the elder Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe had not precisely because her incarnation of Mother’s Day was commercially exploitable. Americans could purchase gifts for their own mothers, as opposed to the concepts of Howe and the elder Jarvis, who envisioned a day of unity for social change.

Today Mother’s Day is a $15 billion dollar industry. More flowers are sold for Mother’s Day than even Valentine’s Day. More cards are sent than for any other holiday but Christmas. And more people will eat out this evening than any other day of the year.

Whereas previous activists like Howe and Jarvis Sr. looked at Mothers’ Day from the point of view of a parent—as a day for mothers to unite against war and injustice to make the world safer for their children—the younger Jarvis never saw it that way. To Anna this day would always be a gift to her mother.

Anna Jarvis, the mother of Mother’s Day, had no children.

[Speaking of commercialism, you probably couldn’t spot Maia and her sisters in the sky, but the Pleiades constellation looks like this:

You might recognize it better as this:


Subaru is the Japanese name for the constellation. The auto manufacturer’s logo shows the six stars normally visible to the naked eye.]

Ellis Island Family History Day

April 17

Emigrants Arriving at Ellis Island

On Thursday evening, December 31, 1891, the S.S. Nevada arrived in New York Harbor. Among its passengers were 14 year-old Annie Moore of Cork County, Ireland, and her two younger brothers, Anthony and Phillip. They had sailed to America to join their parents in New York City’s Lower East Side.

On the morning of January 1, 1892, Annie’s 15th birthday, a barge transported the three Moores and the 145 other steerage passengers to a brand new federal immigration center called Ellis Island, where the rosy-cheeked Annie became the first immigrant of the twelve million who would enter the United States through its doors.

“As soon as the gangplank was run ashore, Annie tripped across it and was hurried into the big building that almost covers the entire island. By a prearranged plan she was escorted to a registry desk which was temporarily occupied by Mr. Charles M. Hendley…” “Landed on Ellis Island” NY Times 1/2/1892 (pdf)

Over 100 million Americans — roughly a third of the U.S. population — can trace their roots back to the immigrants of Ellis Island, starting with Annie Moore.

That first day, Ellis Island welcomed three steamships and 700 passengers. Nothing to compare with the thousands who would soon be entering the country through the island each day.

April 17 (Ellis Island Family History Day) marks the anniversary of the date in 1907 when more immigrants passed through Ellis Island than on any other day: 11,747, more than twice the usual number. 1907 alone saw the arrival of over a million immigrants.

Though the first immigrants were Irish, about half of all those who passed through Ellis Island in its heyday were of German descent.

The “Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World” (the statue’s official name) was completed four year prior to Ellis Island’s opening. The statue was the first glimpse of America for the millions of immigrants who sailed into New York Harbor on the way to Ellis Island between 1892 and 1924. After 1924, quotas and restrictions greatly reduced emigration to America. Still, Ellis Island served as an entry point for war refugees and displaced persons until its closure in 1954.

The Island reopened as a museum in 1990 which is now run by the National Park Service as part of the Statue of LIberty National Monument.

It generally took arrivals three to five hours to go through the immigration process, longer for those suspected of or diagnosed as being ill. Hopefuls had to pass literacy tests and “examinations as to moral and physical fitness.” (NYTimes 6/27/1920)

About 2% (250,000) were sent back to their home countries on account of incurable illnesses. For curable illnesses, Ellis Island was the site of the one of the largest public healthcare operations in early 20th century America. The medical complex occupied 22 buildings, and in 1914 alone it treated over 10,000 patients from 75 countries.

The first Ellis Island Family History Day was observed in 2001. The holiday has been officiated via proclamations by state governors.

The Ellis Island Immigration Museum has received 20 million visitors since its opening in 1990, more than the number of immigrants it naturalized during its 62-year career.

Famous immigrants who entered through Ellis Island:

  • comedian Bob Hope
  • actor Cary Grant
  • songwriter Irving Berlin
  • author Isaac Asimov
  • Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter
  • Father Flanagan

More Annie Moore – ellisisland.org

Ellis Island’s Forgotten Hospital

America At Last! Ilona’s Arrival at Ellis Island, 1909 – 100 Years in America

Qing Ming Festival

April 5, 2010
April 5, 2011
April 4, 2012

Two weeks after the spring equinox (usually April 5) the Chinese spend this day with their beloved departed. Qing Ming, or Tomb Sweeping Day is one of the few Chinese holidays to follow the solar calendar rather than the lunar.

On this day families travel together to the grave’s of their loved ones to honor their memory. It’s believed that the spirits of family members who have passed on continue to watch over the family.

The holiday has been celebrated for over 2,500 years, originating with a Chinese Emperor who honored the memory of a royal official who sacrificed his life to save the Emperor.

Qingming Festival

Today relatives try to ensure their ancestors’ happiness in many different ways. Some sweep away the underbrush and dirt that has accumulated, and decorate their graves with flowers. Others cook the favorite dish of the departed. It’s traditional to burn ‘fake’ money or paper models of other goods, but this year Chinese officials are concerned about dry conditions conducive to fires, and are encouraging other methods of honoring the dead, such as planting trees.

The cemeteries are swamped with visitors this day. Officials estimate 100,000 people will visit the Babaoshan cemetery in Beijing today.

Meanwhile a new tradition is developing online where relatives can light virtual candles and carry on the traditions of Qing Ming in cyberspace.

The 2008 Tomb Sweeping Day is an historic event in that it has been declared a national public holiday for the first time.