A Brief History
On November 13, 2017, in the United States we celebrate the annual chance for unmarried spinsters to catch themselves a husband in the Sadie Hawkins Day race for freedom. Started by cartoonist Al Capp in his Lil Abner cartoon back in 1937, the race pits unmarried women against eligible bachelors, with the only rule being if she catches him, she keeps him!
The story in the comic strip is about a 35 year old denizen of Dogpatch, unmarried at that advanced age and facing spinsterhood. Her father, a big deal in those parts (major potato farmer) compels the local bachelors (unless they are betrothed) to run a race, with Sadie getting to marry the slowest one. The race is run, and the unfortunate (Sadie is said to be incredibly homely) John Johnston is the loser/winner, Sadie not fast enough to catch the man she really wanted.
Sadie Hawkins Day events are held all over the United States, but depending on the source, the actual date varies. Sadie Hawkins Day, November 13, 2017 at Holiday Insights lists today as the special day, while other sources (Old Farmer’s Almanac) consider November 15 each year the only real day to hold the festivities. Even other sources claim the first Saturday in November after November 9th as the special day.
The story behind Sadie Hawkins Day may have been inspired by Greek Mythology, the story of Atalanta, a fierce huntress dedicated to the Goddess Artemis, who would agree to marry only the man that could beat her in a foot race. As early as 1939 the “holiday” was already big news, with Life Magazine reporting Sadie Hawkins Day races held at 201 colleges across the country.
With such high stakes, some men would run as hard as they could to avoid being caught in the gender reversing pursuit of happiness, while undoubtedly some men would feign being slow of foot in order to intentionally get caught. Either way, the fastest gals get the best guy they can catch! For our female readers, tell us who you would most like to catch on Sadie Hawkins Day.
(Note: Back in 1937 it was rare for women and girls to pursue men and boys, with cultural norms being the male pursued the female. Today, this sort of uneven gender bias is all but erased, at least in American society, but we think the Sadie Hawkins shenanigans are still fun.)
Question for students (and subscribers): Have you ever attended a Sadie Hawkins dance? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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Capp, Al. Lil Abner and Sadie Hawkins Day. Saalfield, 1940.