Many remember Sadie Hawkins Day, back in it’s heyday with a smile. Every November 13th, the only day of the year parents approved of their daughters asking a boy out. The pseudo-holiday was usually celebrated with a high school or college campus dance. But what many don’t remember is, who was Sadie Hawkins, anyway?
Sadie Hawkins was a fictional character created by Al Capp, an American Cartoonist, in the comic strip “Li’l Abner,” which ran from 1934–1977. In a time when most comics were set in big cities in the Northeast, Capp’s characters lived in the mountain village of Dogpatch, Kentucky.
The characters had colorful names and big personalities. Marrin’ Sam, a preacher, performed $2 weddings. Earthquake McGoon considered himself “the worlds dirtiest wrassler.” Joe Btfsplk was the jinx of Dogpatch. A dark cloud followed him everywhere.
On November 1937, Capp concocted a gender role reversal in Dogpatch that set his reader’s imaginations on fire. Hezekiah Hawkins was a prominent citizen in town with a 35-year-old unmarried daughter named Sadie. She was hailed, “the homeliest gal in all them hills.” Concerned his daughter would become a spinster, Hezekiah invited all the local bachelors and single ladies to compete in a race. He proclaimed the date of the race, “Sadie Hawkins Day.”
The footrace began with a shot, signaling the males to start running and get a head start. The second shot signaled the females to start chasing them. If a woman caught a man, he’d have to marry her. No excuses. Hezekiah knew his daughter wasn’t pretty, but she was fast. Sure enough, Sadie snagged a man.
In November 1938, there was another Sadie Hawkins Day race in Dogpatch, and every November after, until the comic strip ended on November 13, 1977. By 1939, high schools and college campuses began having Sadie Hawkins Day Dances around the 13th of November. People often wore plaid flannel shirts like the characters of Dogpatch.
The phenomenon spread throughout the country and eventually became a quirky holiday. Some places had a Sadie Hawkins Eve dance where ladies symbolically stomped on the feet of their crush, so they’d be easier to catch on Sadie Hawkins Day.
The protagonist, Li’l Abner Yokum, perpetually 19-years-old and a confirmed bachelor, dreaded Sadie Hawkins Day. After all, the beautiful Daisy Mae Scraggs pined over him and pursued him all year long. She was okay, but Li’l Abner was more interested in fishing than girls. Like most of the bachelors in the village, he valued his freedom and like most of the bachelorettes in Dogpatch, Daisy Mae longed to be married.
Li’l Abner sported big muscles, but he was dimwitted. Still, he evaded Daisy Mae every Sadie Hawkins Day for nearly two decades. In 1952, Daisy Mae finally landed her man. They married and had a child named Honest Abe.
These days, Sadie Hawkins Day seems a little archaic. After all, modern women don’t have to wait for a certain day to ask a man out. The holiday is offensive to some, who don’t appreciate a day based on the idea all single women are hellbent on becoming a wife. To others, it is a celebration of how far women have come in the past 85 years and think of it as a fun, frivolous day honoring a long-ago era.
How do you feel about Sadie Hawkins day? Will you scoff at it or celebrate? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!