You’ve probably heard the name Sadie Hawkins throughout your entire life, and know it refers to the kind of dance girls ask boys to attend. Maybe you have a Sadie Hawkins/turnabout dance once a year—or perhaps you go to an all-girls school, which makes every homecoming, dance, and ice cream social a Sadie Hawkins night. But have you ever stopped to wonder who this Sadie Hawkins chick actually is? And why she’s forcing you to take smelly dudes to dances and pay for their dinners? We here at SparkLife are finally going to solve this mystery, using only the most accurate and precise source: Wikipedia.
Sadie Hawkins wasn’t an actual living human being (though there are 19 entries for women named Sadie Hawkins on whitepages.com). Our Sadie made her debut in 1937 in a famous cartoon strip called “Li’l Abner.” The “Li’l” in the title might lead you to believe this strip focused on hood life rappers during the Great Depression, but it was actually about hillbillies.
Sidebar: Al Capp, the creator of “Li’l Abner,” not only invented Sadie Hawkins, but also came up with the term “double whammy.” Capp was a really interesting guy. He lost a leg at age nine in a freak trolley accident. He went to high school for five years, but left without a diploma because he didn’t get that whole "COS SIN TAN thing." He decided to become a cartoonist because drawing is really easy, and so is being funny. Plus, he wanted to hook up with chicks and he only had one leg, so he really needed to develop other talents. He moved to NYC, the place where everyone makes it big, and lived in some nasty neighborhoods. By age 22, he was the youngest syndicated cartoonist in the country. Oh, and one more thing you should know about Al: Even though he dropped out of school, he was really smart and a voracious reader, just like you guys.
Anyway, back to Sadie’s cartoon life. Sadie was a homely girl. In the first strip she appears in, you can’t tell if she has acne or measles, but there's no doubt her face is covered in unsightly dots. Her hair is pulled into a tight large bun on top of her shriveled head. She looks about 85, so it’s really no one wonder she wasn’t getting any.
Sadie was going nowhere in her career as a 35-year-old, single, stay-at-home-daughter, and her father Hekzebiah really wanted her to move out of his house. She was probably playing her music too loud in her room and not doing the dishes. Plus, she didn’t pay rent. So Hekzebiah announced the first Sadie Hawkins Day in their town of Dogspatch. (He could name a holiday after his ugly daughter because he was rich.) On Sadie’s big day, her daddy held a foot race, and Sadie ran in hot pursuit of the town's eligible bachelors, with matrimony as the final reward (for Sadie, not the dudes).
Sadie caught a boy in her very first strip, but she didn’t go away. Instead, she became a national sensation, kind of like "Pants On the Ground," except back then everything was still in black and white, including real life.
In 1939, just two years after Al Capp drew this strip (probably while wearing boxers and chilling at his drawing table in his basement), Life magazine reported that over 200 colleges were holding Sadie Hawkins Day events. The SH footrace became so popular that Capp continued to feature it each year in his strip for decades. And you know what happened next: Sadie Hawkins dances became a feminist rite of passage at high schools.
So that’s why you have to ask a dude to turnabout this month. If that bugs you because you don’t like asking guys out, even though you’re all feminist and stuff, think of it this way: You made this one-legged guy’s dream come true. And you and Al Capp aren’t that different. You both like to read books, and word on the street is you might not graduate from high school, either, if you don’t visit Sparknotes.
If you were going to invent your own day, what would it be? Will you be participating in SH day? Let us know!
Related post: A Guide to the Sadie Hawkins Dance