Although the first local celebrations of Mother's Day date back to the 1860s and 1870s, it was not until 1914 that President Woodrow Wilson approved a resolution that made the second Sunday in May a holiday in honor of “that tender, gentle army, the mothers of America.”
Although the first local celebrations of Mother's Day date back to the 1860s and 1870s, it was not until 1914 that President Woodrow Wilson approved a resolution that made the second Sunday in May a holiday in honor of "that tender, gentle army, the mothers of America."
Father's Day was even later in arriving. It was suggested as early as 1908, but it did not become a national holiday until 1972.
Although there was little questioning the appropriateness of celebrating the nation's mothers a century ago, not so Father's Day.
First of all, there was the unanticipated, but probably predictable, commercialization of Mother's Day. When talk of adding Father's Day surfaced men wanted no part of such commercialization.
But also voiced were concerns about the message such a national holiday would send. When it was first proposed, as one history explains, men "scoffed at the holiday's sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving."
When the alternative of Parents' Day failed, the matter was tabled for nearly a half-century.
This year's Father's Day has been marred a bit by reports on the state of men in America – which suggest that all is not well in the male world. As Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker titled her piece on the matter: "Women Gain Supremacy as Some Fathers Fade Away."
Parker was commenting on a recent Pew Research Center report that found that 40 percent of American households with children under 18 include a mother who is either the primary breadwinner or the sole earner – four times the share in 1960.
Parker went on to raise the question: Why do we need men? But rather than go there, let's consider one explanation for why women are gaining such supremacy.
The Pew study focused on employment and income. Given my day job, my concern is with the closely related, contributing factor of education. For anyone who has followed higher education as of late, the Pew conclusions should come as no surprise.
In brief, young men are now significantly less likely to complete college than women and even than their fathers were.
Women now outnumber men nearly 3 to 2 in college. Men enter college is nearly equal numbers, but they don't stay and that is true for every demographic – whites, Hispanics, and African Americans – the sole exception being Asian Americans.
For generations Americans topped the academic attainment of their parents. That remains the case only for women. According to a recent report by the American Council on Education, whereas college graduation rates for women age 25 to 34 has increased to 42 percent versus 34 percent for women ages 55 to 64, nearly the reverse is true for men. The completion rate from the one to the other population group has dropped from 40 percent to 33 percent.
The report concluded: "Clearly, women of the post-baby boom generation have been successful in raising college attainment while men have not, and the gap between women and men is growing."
Perhaps, guys, this is something worth thinking about as we kick back in the backyard with a beer and burger this Father's Day.
Bryan Le Beau is an historian and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Saint Mary.