Sonora Louise Smart Dodd, of Spokane, Washington, was 27 when she listened to a Sunday sermon about Mother's Day in 1909 and wondered why there was no corresponding day for fathers. (Mother's Day observances began in 1908 in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, according to Hallmark Cards in Kansas City.) She was just 16 when her own father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, was widowed when his wife died in childbirth with their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his five other children by himself on a rural farm in eastern Washington state. Sonora Dodd began her campaign after that sermon. She believed that the nation did not show enough respect to fathers, citing such popular songs of the day as "Everybody Works But Father," she promoted Father's Day out of love for her father.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson approved of this idea, but it was not until 1924 when President Calvin Coolidge made it a national event to "establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations." In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father's Day. Sonora Smart Dodd was honored for her contribution at the World's Fair in Spokane in 1974. Mrs. Dodd died in 1978 at age 96.