Sadie Hawkins Day

 Curio & Co. looks at Sadie Hawkins Day from classic comic strip li'l Abner. Pin with Sadie Hawkins caricature. Curio and Co.

How a comic strip launched a high school tradition

There’s something especially charming about fictional traditions that catch on in the real world. Though with Sadie Hawkins Day, the case of life imitating art has largely been forgotten.

Having a day named after you is a pretty big deal, but poor Sadie might be excused if she didn’t feel quite so honored in this case.

Sadie Hawkins was a character in Al Capp’s classic hillbilly comic strip Li'l Abner, which ran from 1934 to 1978. Though her father was prominent Dogpatch settler Hekzebiah Hawkins, Sadie was so ugly (she was known as the “homliest gal in all them hills”) that she couldn’t win any suitors. Her father grew pretty desperate (he didn’t want Sadie living at home forever), so he gathered all the single men in Dogpatch and organized a race.

“When ah fires, all o’ yo’ kin start a-runnin! When ah fires agin…Sadie starts a-runnin. Th’ one she ketches’ll be her husbin.” Unfortunately for one poor fellow, Sadie was pretty fast on her feet.

This soon became a Dogpatch tradition, and the race was held for all spinsters each year of the strip.

Li’l Abner was a popular comic strip, and the concept of Sadie Hawkins Day really took off at high school and college campuses. Schools across the US started holding Sadie Hawkins dances – where girls are required to ask boys to the dance – and just two years after the first Sadie Hawkins Day in the comic strip, Life magazine featured a photo spread all about the day.

Today, the social constraints prohibiting a woman from asking a man out have largely disappeared, however most schools still hold Sadie Hawkins dances sometime in November. Al Capp never specified an exact date for Sadie Hawkins Day (he didn’t want his plots to be tied down), but the day is generally recognized as the first Saturday in November.

Gentlemen, start a-runnin.

Did you know? Before legendary artist Frank Frazetta became an American institution for his lush paintings, he worked as a “ghost” for Al Capp on Li'l Abner (as seen on the button above).