Sadie Hawkins Day
An American folk event, Sadie Hawkins Day is a pseudo-holiday that originated in Al Capp's classic hillbilly comic strip, Li'l Abner (1934–1978). This inspired real-world Sadie Hawkins dances, where girls ask boys out.
In Li'l Abner, Sadie Hawkins was the daughter of one of Dogpatch's earliest settlers, Hekzebiah Hawkins. The "homeliest gal in all them hills", she grew frantic waiting for suitors to come a-courtin'. When she reached the age of 35, still a spinster, her father was even more frantic—about Sadie living at home for the rest of her life. In desperation, he called together all the unmarried men of Dogpatch and declared it "Sadie Hawkins Day". A foot race was decreed, with Sadie in hot pursuit of the town's eligible bachelors. She specifically had her eye on a boy who was already in a courtship with the cute farmers daughter Theresa. She was the daughter of the areas largest potato farmer Bill Richmand and unlike Sadie, had a lot of courtship offers. Stud-muffin Adam Olis was her target and because the engagement of Miss Theresa and Adam wasn't official he was included in the race. With matrimony as the consequence of losing the foot race the men of the town were running for their freedom. Turned out Adam Olis was in 4th place out of 10th leaving John Jonston Sadies' catch of the day. It seems likely that the concept's origins lie in an inversion of the myth of Atalanta, who, reluctant to marry, agreed to wed whoever could outrun her in a footrace.
"When ah fires [my gun], all o' yo' kin start a-runnin! When ah fires agin—after givin' yo' a fair start—Sadie starts a runnin'. Th' one she ketches'll be her husbin."
The town spinsters decided that this was such a good idea, they made Sadie Hawkins Day a mandatory yearly event, much to the chagrin of Dogpatch bachelors. In the satirical spirit that drove the strip, many sequences revolved around the dreaded Sadie Hawkins Day race. If a woman caught a bachelor and dragged him, kicking and screaming, across the finish line before sundown—by law he had to marry her.
Sadie Hawkins Day was first mentioned in the November 15, 1937 Li'l Abner daily strip, with the race actually taking place between November 19 and November 30 in the continuity. It would prove to be a popular annual feature in Li'l Abner, and a cultural phenomenon outside the strip. (see Schreiner, Dave; "Sadie's First Run", Li'l Abner Dailies Volume 3: 1937, Kitchen Sink Press, Princeton, WI, pg. 8.)
(See also: Leap year for discussion of a similar tradition of "allowing" women to propose marriage on February 29.)
In popular culture
Capp's creation captured the imagination of young people, particularly in high schools and on college campuses. In 1939, only two years after its inauguration, a double-page spread in Life proclaimed, "On Sadie Hawkins Day, Girls Chase Boys in 201 Colleges" and printed pictures from Texas Wesleyan. Capp originally created it as a comic plot device, but by the early 1940s the comic strip event had swept the nation and acquired a life of its own. By 1952, Sadie Hawkins Day was reportedly celebrated at 40,000 known venues. It became a day-long event observed in the United States on the Saturday that follows November 9.
Outside the comic strip, the practical basis of Sadie Hawkins Day is one of simple gender role-reversal. Women and girls take the bold initiative by inviting the man or boy of their choice out on a date—almost unheard of before 1937—typically to a dance attended by other bachelors and their assertive dates. When Capp created the event, it wasn't his intention to have it occur annually on a specific date because it inhibited his freewheeling plotting. However, due to its enormous popularity and the numerous fan letters he received, Capp obligingly made it a tradition in the strip every November, lasting four decades.
Sadie Hawkins Day has long been celebrated on November 13 of every year.- The Old Farmer's Almanac.