Sadie Hawkins’ Day
by C.K. Thomas
The year 2016 has 366 days to make up for the fact that the earth doesn’t revolve around the sun exactly 365 times a year. Leap Year rolls around every four years when we add one day to the 28-day month of February to set our calendar straight. Anyone born on the 29th of February in a Leap Year becomes known as a “Leaper” and might choose to celebrate birthdays thereafter on February 28th or March 1st in non-Leap Years.
What are you planning to do with your extra 24 hours this year? Some people choose to dub February 29th Sadie Hawkins Day and celebrate by planning get-togethers when the “girls” get to ask the “boys” to take a spot on their dance cards, so to speak. Gender role reversal doesn’t seem very outrageous in the year 2016, but back in 1937, a comic strip written by Al Capp evidently struck a nerve with his readers and planted an ugly duckling known as Sadie Hawkins firmly in our history.
Al Capp didn’t intend to start a trend when he wrote a comic strip featuring a farmer’s daughter who couldn’t find a husband in his Li’l Abner cartoon. After all, Dogpatch, Kentucky wasn’t that big a place, and Capp’s drawing of Hekzebiah Hawkins’ daughter Sadie didn’t do a thing to increase her chances of snagging a husband there. Sadie wasn’t beautiful. In fact, she had a witch-like face, warts and all. In Dogpatch, Sadie was considered a spinster by the age of 35, and her father was anxious to marry her off.
Hekzebiah decided to hold a race, so Sadie could perhaps outrun and land a local boy to be her husband. In Dogpatch, it became law that any eligible bachelor caught before sundown on Race Day must marry the one who caught him. Sadie did get a man, and that was to be the end of the feature in the comic strip. Readers had a different idea, though, and Al Capp kept the race going for 40 years at his fans’ insistence. In 1939 the tradition of holding Sadie Hawkins’ dances began in a big way in schools and colleges around the country.
It turns out that Al Capp had a reputation for being a bit of a “notorious” ladies man. In contrast, he fought hard to get the National Cartoonists Society to admit women cartoonists and even resigned his membership for a time in 1949 in protest. Capp gave an impassioned speech that had a strong impact on the rules against women in the NCS being changed to admit them in 1950. In a 1952 magazine article Capp stated, “The real powers in America are women – the wives and sweethearts behind the masculine dummies…”
Al Capp’s bio on Wikipedia is quite interesting, if you’d like to know more about this award-winning cartoonist, who accidently made the name Sadie Hawkins quite famous.
C.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.