On the Shelf

By Paul Guffin

Father’s Day

This coming Sunday, June 19, is the occasion of two very special observances: Father’s Day and Juneteenth. I wrote in this column last year (Column 2021-24) about Juneteenth. So, this year I’ll take a look at Father’s Day.

This special day honors both fatherhood and the influence of fathers in society. Although the day is celebrated in the United States on the third Sunday in June, it is also an international observance, with the celebration taking place at different times in different countries. And, this is a celebration that did not originate in the United States.

For centuries, the Eastern Orthodox Church appointed the second Sunday before Nativity as the Sunday of the Forefathers, to commemorate the human ancestors of Christ, starting with Adam, and emphasizing the patriarch Abraham. The feast can fall between December 11 and 17, and includes the ancestors of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and various prophets.

In Catholic Europe, a customary day for the celebration of fatherhood dates back to at least 1508. It was usually celebrated on March 19 as the feast of Saint Joseph (human father of Jesus). This celebration was brought to the Americas by the Spanish and Portuguese. In the Coptic Orthodox Church, the celebration of fatherhood is also observed on St. Joseph’s Day, but the Copts observe this on July 20 in a celebration that may date back to the fifth century C.E.

In the United States, in addition to the above observances, Father’s Day was inaugurated in the early 20th century to complement Mother’s Day. Its origin in this country is credited to Sonora Smart Dodd, who first proposed the celebration in Spokane, Washington, in 1909. Her father was a civil war veteran who, as a single parent, raised his six children in Spokane. After hearing a sermon about Anna Jarvis’ Mother’s Day at Central Methodist Episcopal Church, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar day honoring them, suggesting June 5 (her father’s birthday) as a fitting date. However, because the pastors of the Spokane Ministerial Alliance needed additional time to prepare appropriate sermons, the date was pushed back to the third Sunday of June. Initially, the observance did not have much success. During the 1920s, Dodd stopped promoting the celebration because she was studying art in Chicago, and the celebration faded into relative obscurity. However, in the 1930s, she returned to Spokane and started promoting the celebration again, raising awareness also at the national level. Of course, she had the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the observance, including manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes, and any traditional gifts to fathers. For a while, people in the United States resisted the observance, perceiving it as just an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother’s Day. But, the trade groups didn’t give up, and kept promoting the event, with eventual success. By the mid-1980s the Father’s Day Council wrote that “…[Father’s Day] has become a Second Christmas for all the men’s gift-oriented industries”.

For a long time, Congress resisted making the observance official, fearing that it would become commercialized. In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Six years later, in 1972, it was made a permanent national holiday, when President Richard Nixon signed it into law.

Some Books in the Downieville Library about Fathers

  • Flags of Our Fathers, by James Bradley (non-fiction)
  • Father Christmas, by Raymond Briggs (juvenile non-fiction)
  • The Innocence of Father Brown, by G.K. Chesterton (fiction)
  • Ramona and Her Father, by Beverly Cleary (juvenile fiction)
  • My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannet (juvenile fiction)
  • Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood, by Michael Lewis (non-fiction)
  • Wisdom of Our Fathers, by Tim Russert (non-fiction)
  • Grandfather’s Journey, by Allen Say (juvenile fiction)
  • By the Light of My Father’s Smile, by Alice Walker (fiction)

Other (old) literary news this week

Anne Frank gets a diary for her birthday (June 12, 1942) • Shelley Memorial, featuring a reclining nude marble statue of Percy Shelley, opens at University College, Oxford, from which the poet was expelled in 1811 (June 14, 1893) • Dante Alighieri is named prior of Florence (June 15, 1300) • James Joyce’s Dubliners is published, in a run of 1250 copies (famously, it only sold 499 of those in its first year—one short of Joyce being able to profit from it) (June 15, 1914) • At the Villa Diodati, Lord Byron challenges each of his house guests—Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, and John Polidori—to write a ghost story. Mary Shelly’s submission? A little book called Frankenstein (June 16, 1816) • Bloomsday is celebrated for the first time (June 16, 1924) • Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes get married (June 16, 1956) • Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is published by William Heinemann in a first print run of 2,000. It’s still read and loved today (June 17, 1958) • At a literary breakfast with a group of London booksellers, Samuel Johnson signs a contract, agreeing to compile A Dictionary of the English Language, one of the most influential English-language dictionaries ever published (June 18, 1746) • Charles Darwin reads a paper that includes nearly identical conclusions about evolution as his own, prompting him to swiftly publish his theory (June 18, 1858) • Failed publisher Mark Twain purchases a house in Redding, CT, and names it Stormfield, after his own short story “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven” (June 18, 1908)

Source: https://lithub.com/category/lit-hub-daily of June 12, 2022

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