The hardest part of parenting, a wise person once said, is raising children to grow both roots and wings.
Civil War veteran and superadd William Jackson Smart was gifted at cultivating both.
His daughter, Sonora Smart Dodd, founded Father’s Day in 1910 — inspired by the incredible example of her twice-widowed yet devoted dad.
Her roots were planted deeply in her hometown of Spokane, Washington, where she conceived and created the first day of devotion to dads.
She is a beloved Chosen Daughter of Spokane today.
Yet Dodd spread her wings by pursuing dreams and passions far from home. A woman ahead of her time, she was a businessperson, poet, Chicago artist and Hollywood fashion-maker.
Mostly, she was a devoted daughter.
"She was a free spirit and very much ahead of her time," proud great-granddaughter and family historian Betsy Roddy said this week by phone to Fox News Digital.
She claimed all of these achievements "as a wife and mother," Roddy said, "who never lost her desire to grow and learn."
Among many examples, Dodd gifted Roddy and other loved ones with books and encouragement throughout her life.
"She would inscribe them to ‘Little Betsy’ with this beautiful handwriting. She said, ‘Be educated, watch your words, words have power.’"
Dodd's notable journey began at a time when few women could vote — and when society stubbornly resisted the notion of a day devoted to dads.
Sonora Louise Smart was born on Feb. 18, 1882 in Jenny Lind, Arkansas, to William Jackson and Ellen Victory Cheek (Billingsley) Smart.
"I recall that (Jenny Lind) was a happy sort of place with lilac blooms, an orchard aflower, a crystal spring, and hickory, pecan and walnuts in autumn," she wrote in letter dated April 20, 1950.
Her father was born and raised in Arkansas, which seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy in 1861.
Smart, just 19 at the outbreak of hostilities, remained loyal to the United States. He served with the First Arkansas Light Artillery of the Union Army during the Civil War.
He returned to his farm in Jenny Lind and married his first wife, Elizabeth (Harris) as the war ended in 1865. The marriage produced three children.
Elizabeth died 13 years later, leaving the Army veteran a widowed father.
He then married Ellen, a widowed mother of three, in 1880. Their union produced six more children: Sonora, followed by five brothers: Charles, twins George and Henry, plus Marshall and Thomas.
"Steps, halves and wholes," they "laughingly" called the family of 12 children, according to Roddy.
The Smarts moved to a soldier’s homestead in Eastern Washington when Sonora was just 7 years old.
Smart was widowed yet again on March 2, 1898, when his second wife died in childbirth.
Dodd, by then 16, was forever impressed when her dad instinctively took command of the sudden new responsibilities.
The youngest brother, Thomas, ran out into the cold the night of their mother's funeral, Dodd told family members later in life. Dad retrieved him and cradled the 7-year-old boy by the fire, singing to him until he fell asleep.
"It is not difficult to recall the twilight of an early March day at the turn of the century, when bereavement came to us at the loss of our mother," Dodd said in an interview in 1964.
"Father assumed the role of father-mother in the rearing of his six children. This role he performed with courage and selflessness until we were all in homes of our own."
Fatherhood appears in crisis today, according to social observers and sobering data. It suffered a social crisis at the turn of the 20th century, too.
The troubles of the time were expressed in popular tunes of the early 1900s, including "Everybody Works But Father" and "Father, Dear Father, Come Home with Me Now."
Each told tales of distant, neglectful fathers. Widespread drunkenness at home, meanwhile, largely afflicting men, fueled the Prohibition movement that banned booze nationwide in 1919.
It was in this context that Dodd heard a sermon on Mother’s Day — then well established — at Central United Methodist Church (now New Community Church) in Spokane on May 9, 1909.
Inspired by the example of her own father, she approached the minister after church.
"I liked everything you said about motherhood," she reportedly said. "However, don’t you think fathers deserve a place in the sun, too?"
She quickly found allies in the Spokane Ministerial Alliance and the local YMCA and took the effort to the local press.
"A Father’s day would call attention to such constructive teachings from the pulpit," she wrote in a June 6 report in the Spokane Chronicle.
"The meaning of this, whether in the light of religion or of patriotism, is apparent as to need no argument in behalf of such a day."
The first Father's Day was held in Spokane on June 19, 1910, featuring church sermons and other celebrations around the city.
Dodd encouraged gifts and flowers — red roses for living fathers, white roses in memory for fathers who passed. She gathered and distributed gifts to fathers of families of limited means.
She married John Bruce Dodd in 1899. She attended art school in Chicago from 1918 to 1922, taking her only son, Jack, with her; then, she gained her high school diploma in 1926, at age 44, and designed dresses in Hollywood from 1929 to 1930.
Father's Day thrived in Spokane and spread to other communities. It failed, however, to generate the same widespread national enthusiasm that Mother's Day enjoyed years earlier.
President Woodrow Wilson boosted the profile of Father's Day in 1916, ceremonially kicking off festivities in Spokane from the White House. Yet several Father's Day bills failed in Congress.
Dodd continued to champion Father's Day and achieved some national celebrity.
She was honored by Columbia Broadcasting for promoting fatherhood in 1939, recognized as the Founder of Father's Day at the 1939-40 New York World's Fair and celebrated by the U.S. Treasury for her bond-drive efforts on behalf of fathers during World War II.
The U.S. Congress finally passed a joint Father's Day resolution on Dec. 28, 1970 — after six decades of being championed by Dodd.
"To have a father – to be a father – is to come very near the heart of life itself," President Richard Nixon, a father of two, said in his Father’s Day proclamation of May 1, 1972.
He declared the third Sunday of each June as Father's Day.
"That’s perseverance if I've ever seen it," said great-granddaughter Roddy. "I’m so happy she was alive to see it come to fruition and that she was able to be there for it."
Sonora Smart Dodd died on March 22, 1978. She was 96 years old.
She is buried at Greenwood Memorial Terrace in Spokane.
Whitworth College (now Whitworth University) in Spokane presented Dodd with a plaque in recognition of her national achievement in 1972.
The same year, she was presented with a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol by Washington Rep. Thomas S. Foley. It was another national testament to her devotion to dads.
She was honored as the founder of Father’s Day at the World’s Fair Expo in Spokane in 1974 and even after her death has continued to enjoy recognition.
Dodd was selected to the Washington Statehood Centennial Hall of Honor by the Washington State Historical Society in 1987. She was also feted citywide in 2010 as Spokane hosted a civic celebration honoring its role as the birthplace of Father’s Day.
She earned a Key to the City in 2018 — her legacy as one of Spokane’s most devoted daughters still recognized 40 years after her death.
Her greatest legacy is felt on the third Sunday of each June, when millions of children around the nation take time to honor their fathers.
"My own father never accepted Father’s Day as personal to himself," she said in 1965.
"But to all fathers — worthy fathers."
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