Sadie Hawkins Day
Sadie Hawkins Day is an American folk event and pseudo-holiday originated by Al Capp's classic hillbilly comic strip Li'l Abner (1934–1978). This inspired real-world Sadie Hawkins events, the premise of which is that females ask males for a date or dancing.
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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. When she reached the age of 35, still a spinster, her father was worried 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 pursuing the town's eligible bachelors. She was specifically interested in a handsome boy named Adam Olis who was already in a courtship with a cute girl, Theresa, whose father was the area's largest potato farmer, Bill Richmand, and, unlike Sadie, had a number of courtship offers. Adam was invited to the race because Miss Theresa and Adam weren't actually engaged. With matrimony as the (absurd) consequence of losing the foot race, the bachelors of the town were running for their freedom. Adam Olis scored fourth place out of 10, leaving John Jonston as Sadie's prize. It is possible that the concept's origins are 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 a good idea, so they made Sadie Hawkins Day a mandatory yearly event, much to the chagrin of Dogpatch's bachelors. 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 comic strip, with the race actually being depicted between November 19 and November 30. It would prove to be an annual feature of Li'l Abner. (see Schreiner, Dave; "Sadie's First Run", Li'l Abner Dailies Volume 3: 1937, Kitchen Sink Press, Princeton, WI, p. 8.)
(See also: Leap year for discussion of a similar tradition of "allowing" women to propose marriage on February 29.)
In popular culture
During 1939, only two years after its inauguration, a double-page spread in Life magazine 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 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 first Saturday after November 9.
The practical basis of a real Sadie Hawkins Day is one of simple traditional gender role-reversal. Women and girls take the initiative by inviting the man or boy of their choice out on a date—- rare 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 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.
According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, Sadie Hawkins Day has long been celebrated on November 15 of every year.