The Origin and Grammar of Father’s Day

While Mother’s Day became an official holiday in 1914, Father’s Day took a little longer to be considered a national holiday. The origin of Father’s Day lies in two unrelated tragic events. 

About six months after the Monongah mining disaster of 1907, in which the small West Virginia town lost over 350 men, Grace Golden Clayton organized an event to honor the fathers killed in the catastrophe. On the other side of the country, Sondra Smart Dodd, whose mother died in childbirth, had a similar father-related thought. Inspired by a Mother’s Day sermon she attended in 1909, Dodd believed there should be a corresponding holiday to celebrate fathers. After all, she and her five siblings had been raised by her father and Civil War veteran, William Smart. Dodd successfully gained support for her idea, and the first Father’s Day was celebrated by Washington State in 1910 in June, the month of her father’s birthday. Though President Calvin Coolidge publicly supported the holiday in 1924, and President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed it a national holiday in 1966, it wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon officially signed a proclamation making Father’s Day federal holiday that falls on the third Sunday in June.

People often wonder why Father’s Day has an apostrophe before the s. The quick answer is that Mother’s Day set a precedent on this fuzzy grammatical issue of apostrophe placement. With the apostrophe before the s, Father’s Day “belongs” to each individual father. If the apostrophe fell after the s, the meaning slightly changes. That would be a holiday “belonging” to all fathers as a collective. The holiday April Fools’ Day, for example, takes the possessive plural rather than the singular plural. Perhaps this is because the individual fool doesn’t matter here in the way in which each individual father matters to his children.

See Also:
Alot vs. A lot: 9 Language Crimes to Watch Out For
Dad? Pops? Father? Why Are There So Many Names for the Same Person?
Why Is the Sixth Month Called June?