Sadie Hawkins, where art thou?


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Sadie Hawkins, where art thou?

February has just expired.  This was a Leap Year and there was no Sadie Hawkins Day to be heard of.  I got to wondering when this happened.  It seems forever since I heard of Sadie Hawkins.  Sad.  I don’t think anyone under forty knows what I am writing about.

Now I gotta tell you I am over forty.  In my youth Al Capp and his wonderful world of Li’l Abner ruled the comics.  I would wait every Sunday for the colored funnies and Li’l Abner, Daisy Mae, Mammy Yokum, Pappy Yokum, Honest Abe Yokum, Tiny Yokum, Marryin Sam, Moonbeam McSwine and a cast of hundreds to entertain me.

Sadie Hawkins stood out.  Sadie Hawkins  empowered generations of girls.

Leap Year Be Careful Clara 1908

Leap Year Be Careful Clara 1908


In Britain and Ireland, it is a tradition that women may propose marriage only on leap years.  In some places the tradition restricted female proposals to the modern leap day, February 29.  Al Capp drew on the tradition associated with Leap Year when he created Sadie Hawkins, though he did not focus on February or limit the day to every four years.

Sadie Hawkins

Sadie Hawkins

In the United States, Leap Day is also called Sadie Hawkins Day. Sadie was a homely character in the Lil’ Abner comic strip who never had a date. It was originally celebrated in November, and was the day when the single women chased the men. If a woman caught a guy and dragged him across the finish line, she got to keep him!

Wikipedia says this:  An American folk event, Sadie Hawkins Day is a pseudo-holiday entirely created within the strip. It made its début in Li’l Abner on November 15, 1937. Capp created it as a comic plot device, but 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.” By the early 1940s the comic strip event had swept the nation’s imagination and acquired a life of its own.

Sadie Hawkins Dance

The Sadie Hawkins dance came into being.  In the strip, Sadie Hawkins Day fell on a given day in November (Capp never specified an exact date). The unmarried women of Dogpatch got to chase the bachelors and “marry up” with the ones they caught.

Daisey Mae Chasing Li'l Abner

Daisy Mae Chasing Li’l Abner

In the U.S. and Canada, this concept was popularized by establishing dance events to which the woman invited a man of her choosing, instead of demurely waiting for a man to ask her. The first known such event was held on November 9, 1938. Within a year hundreds of similar events followed suit.  By 1952, the event was reportedly celebrated at 40,000 known venues. It became a woman-empowering rite at high schools and college campuses, long before the modern feminist movement gained prominence.

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 many fan letters he received, Capp made it a tradition in the strip every November, lasting four decades.

Li’l Abner ran through November of 1977.  I guess Sadie Hawkins Day started to fade into the recesses of history when the publication ceased.  I was too wrapped up in the living of the day to notice.  (I was out of high school and college by then.  Hah!)  But now that I have noticed I feel a sadness for what boys and girls are missing today.

Daisey Mae does Leap Day

Daisy Mae does Leap Day


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About Thomas L. Tribby

Professional artist: painter, sculptor, print maker. Maintains a studio in West Palm Beach, Florida
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2 Responses to Sadie Hawkins, where art thou?

  1. Pingback: Leap Year | Thomas L. Tribby Artist

  2. Bob Chilton says:

    I guess today they could drag another woman across the finish line!

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