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Sadie Hawkins Day

This Sunday, November 13th, is Sadie Hawkins Day. It’s the day when the girls are supposed to ask out boys. Although nowadays it’s a moot holiday because it is socially acceptable for women to do whatever they want as far as chasing men (thank goodness), but I think it is cool that this holiday got started because of a comic strip.

This holiday is about empowering women, but I admit that the circumstances surrounding poor Sadie are incredibly sad. Maybe today we can liberate this poor wimpy girl of funny papers of yore. This one’s for you Sadie.

How it Began

In August of 1934, Al Capp’s Li’l Abner comic strip debuted, and was quickly syndicated in many newspapers throughout the United States. The cartoon is a satirical spoof of life in Dogpatch, Kentucky. The cartoon ran until 1977 with readership topping 60 million.  The cast of cartoon characters include Li’l Abner Yokum, Daisy Mae Scragg, Mammy Yokum, Pappy Yokum, Marryin’ Sam, and many others. The men of Dogpatch are stereotypically dim-witted and lazy. Most of the work is done by the “wimmenfolk.” Sound familiar?

In 1937, Capp introduced Sadie Hawkins to the comic strip. She was the daughter of Hezekiah, the wealthiest, most powerful man in Dogpatch. Sadie was “the homeliest gal in all thar hills,” and thus, was unmarried. It terrified Hezekiah to think that his 35-year-old daughter was going to be an old maid, which in Dogpatch, and I guess in 1937, was considered a horrible thing. So Hezekiah took matters into his own hands.

He called the eligible bachelors of the town together and declared it “Sadie Hawkins Day.” The main event of the day was a race run by all unmarried men with Sadie chasing after them. If she caught one of the unfortunate dudes, he would be legally bound to marry her. The other spinsters in the town loved this idea and they declared Sadie Hawkins Day a mandatory annual event. So, in the comic strip, for 40 years, every November the unmarried women of Dogpatch chased the eligible men with the spotlight on Daisy Mae chasing after Li’l Abner.

But this event was not confined to the funny papers of national newspapers. In 1939, two years after Sadie’s debut, Life magazine reported that over 200 colleges and high schools were holding Sadie Hawkins Day events. It became a rite for girls at universities and high schools across the country.

Understanding that the Sadie Hawkins craze existed in a very different time of history, now, 85 years later, you don’t have to have a degree in Women’s Studies to know that the holiday is outdated. But I’m not going to discount it or completely forget it, because it is all about enabling women…and barefoot running! It’s a fun look at the past.

If nothing else, we can appreciate and celebrate how social norms have evolved. You’ve come a long way Sadie! Run Wimpy Girl, Run!

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This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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