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Literature's Best Quotes About Fathers and the History of Father's Day

By Adrienne Rivera. Jun 15, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Rare Book Gift Ideas

Celebrations of fatherhood exist around the world. The U.S. celebration of Father's Day has become popular in many nations and most commonly is celebrated on the third Sunday in June (that's in two days, if you still need to purchase a gift!). While the U.S. celebration has its modern roots in the early 20th century, days devoted to celebrating fatherhood can be traced back to the Middle Ages.

Authorized_and_authentic_life_and_works_of_T._De_Witt_Talmage_(1902)_(14782643955)European Catholics celebrated fatherhood on the feast day of St. Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, as part of a Franciscan initiative in the late 13th century. The first modern incarnation of an American Father's Day was celebrated in 1908 and was inspired by the successful implementation of Mother's Day. A Virginia woman named Grace Golden Clayton was mourning the loss of her father, and many other men, in a mining tragedy, and she proposed that her pastor honor the dads who had died. The celebration did not reach outside of her town in West Virginia for several reasons. Mainly, there was a lack of publicity, and the day was overshadowed by Fourth of July celebrations. Celebrations were hosted sporadically across the country in following years but never caught on. President Woodrow Wilson sought to make it a national holiday in 1916 but received push-back from Congress fearing commercialization of the day. Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Lyndon B. Johnson also tried to promote the day but were unsuccessful. It was not officially proclaimed a holiday until 1972 when President Richard Nixon officially signed the law. Celebrate this year by reading some of the best quotes about fatherhood from literature.


“There’s no shame in fear, my father told me, what matters is how we face it.” From A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

“It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.” From To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.'” From The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“He was a father. That’s what a father does. Eases the burdens of those he loves. Saves the ones he loves from painful last images that might endure for a lifetime.” From Tenth of December by George Saunders

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.
From “The Gift” by Li Young Lee

“Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later… that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life.” From The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe


"There's something like a line of gold thread running through a man's words when he talks to his daughter, and gradually over the years it gets to be long enough for you to pick up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself." From Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery by John Gregory Brown

"He promised us that everything would be okay. I was a child, but I knew that everything would not be okay. That did not make my father a liar. It made him my father." From Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

“It is a wise father who knows his own child.” from The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare


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Adrienne Rivera
Adrienne Rivera received her MFA in fiction from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She currently lives in southern Indiana.


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