Many people know that a Sadie Hawkin’s dance is an event where the girls ask the boys, not the other way around. If you don’t know the background you may think it’s named for a famous feminist or at the very least a real person.
It is actually named for a comic strip character, “Sadie Hawkins the homeliest gal in the hills” who was a part of the Lil Abner series by Al Capp. It was on November 15, 1937, and the story is that Sadie’s father was worried she would never meet and marry a man… and she would live at home her whole life. So Hekzebiah Hawkins, “a prominent resident of Dogpatch”, decreed the first annual Sadie Hawkins Day, which was a foot race in which the unmarried ladies chased the town’s bachelors, with marriage the prize. If they caught their man the guys were forced to marry the girl that caught him then and there. Sadie was famous for her big fast feet so she was soon married. Al Capp created a Sadie Hawkin’s Day storyline every November.
The first Sadie Hawkins Day in the real world took place on Wednesday, November 9, 1938, but it’s usually celebrated on the nearest Saturday in November to accommodate all the “girls-ask-boys” school dances and other events. Even though a forced shotgun wedding is not what anyone wants, the opportunity for girls to ask guys to a dance is fun. Why wait for the guy? Today girls ask guys on dates and to dances all the time but for some people to have an official day to break with a long standing tradition is fun.
By the late 1930’s the comic strip event had swept the nation’s imagination and acquired a life of its own. Life magazine reported that over 200 colleges were holding Sadie Hawkins Day events in 1939, only two years after its inception. It became a woman empowering rite at high schools and college campuses, long before the modern feminist movement gained prominence. Outside the comic strip, the practical basis of Sadie Hawkins Day is that women and girls take the initiative in inviting the man or boy of their choice out on a date, typically to a dance attended by other bachelors and their aggressive dates. al-capp-lil-abner.com