The holiday that might never have been is coming this Sunday. Believe it or not, Father’s Day is a new holiday in the United States.
Father’s Day originated in the middle ages promoted by the Franciscans. The Spanish and Portuguese brought the idea of father’s Day, though then called Saint Joseph’s day, to the New World. This idea stayed in Latin and South America never quite making it to the United States.
In the early 1900s, a movement for a day to recognize mothers started in the state of West Virginia, where Mother’s Day was first adopted. It soon became a national holiday. Shortly after, there was a huge mining disaster in Monagah, West Virginia, in which 356 miners were killed leaving 1,000 children fatherless. A daughter of one of the victim’s came up with the idea of Father’s Day to honor his memory. The town set the date for July 5, but it was overshadowed by Independence Day on July 4, and the concept faded.
As the century progresses, there are numerous attempts to resurrect the idea of Father’s Day. Several Presidents, including Calvin Coolidge and Woodrow Wilson, try to promote it. A Mr. Meek, who belonged to the Lions Club International, was well known for promoting the idea and is even given credit from that organization for being the founder of Father’s Day. Although the concept was well accepted by the Catholic Church, it really did not do well in the rest of the population. Support for a national Father’s Day was weak in Congress where is was believed it might detract from Mother’s Day, and there was concern retailers would take advantage of the day to promote gift sales. Unbelievably, it wasn’t until the administration of Lyndon Johnson that a proclamation was issued, by the President himself, to promote the idea of Father’s Day. But it would be Richard Nixon who would sign the law that actually made it a national holiday to be celebrated on the third Sunday of June.
Perhaps unintentional, and a reflection of the view of our male culture, the deference to the women’s holiday of Mother’s Day in the cause for a men’s holiday can still be found today in other areas of our society. For instance, take our culture’s view of prostate cancer. We all, men and women, are well aware that breast cancer is a very devastating disease and there are many wonderful, much needed, supporting institutions that now exist to steer education and funding towards the cure for breast cancer. Yet, this is not so for prostate cancer, even though the death rate and occurrences of prostate cancer are almost identical to those of breast cancer. Prostate cancer gets very little attention in the print and social media. This divergence has led to a lack of understanding and support about this dreaded male specific disease.
As a practicing urologist I was well aware of this and have been for many years. The PSA, a valuable screening test for prostate cancer, was rejected by the insurance companies (in my home state of Connecticut) as something that would “increase cost to reduce access.” Fortunately for the men of Connecticut, the state legislature finally passed a bill requiring coverage of the PSA. That was a major step forward regarding the detection of prostate cancer, but very little else has happened in the past 25 years since that took place. Rightfully so, breast cancer and currently ovarian cancer get a tremendous amount of attention. But the same value is not placed on men’s health. To help make inroads, two years ago I proposed the idea of a Men’s Health license plate to be created here in Connecticut. A bill was proposed by the transportation committee, passed by the legislature, and signed by Governor Malloy. It was sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles for implementation, but nothing has happened. When asked about this, we were told that it was “the bureaucracy” that was holding it up.
This is one more example of men’s health being ignored. Think of how many lives might be saved if there were license plates the cars that promoted men’s health. It is time for the men of Connecticut and their legislators to do their part. If the Hartford Whalers can get their own license plate, it would seem a license plate promoting men’s health could also be implemented. It seems to me that Father’s Day would be a good time for this to happen. What a great gift this would be for the dads of Connecticut.
Jeffrey Rabuffo, MD
Dr. Jeff has a weekly, half hour, live radio show on WLIS/WMRD, 1150AM (Old Saybrook, CT), which can be streamed live or on demand via http://wliswmrd.net. The show airs Mondays at 11AM with a replay on Thursdays at 11AM.
You can also order a copy of Dr. Jeff’s book, The Life of Men, available in a 2nd edition paperback on Amazon at this link http://amzn.to/2oICjjx
Dr. Jeff is also available to speak at your group, club, or organization.
He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org