For many people, mentioning “Hawkins” might make them think of the popular Netflix show Stranger Things, which takes place in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana.
However, there is another Hawkins that has a much longer history, and many students and former-students in the United States are very familiar with it.
Similar to Shakespeare, a cartoonist named Al Capp created work that was the origin of many English words and expressions that are common today. One of his creations even inspired the event that's the focus of this article.
Who is Sadie Hawkins?
Sadie Hawkins is not a real person but a character in a comic strip called Li’l Abner. Created by Al Capp in 1934, Li’l Abner was published for over 40 years in newspapers in the US, Canada and Europe.
The comic tells the story of Abner Yokum, an innocent and simple-minded 19-year-old who lives in a rural town called Dogpatch. Dogpatch is full of funny and unusual characters whom Abner meets and interacts with. One of those characters is Sadie Hawkins, who is described in the book as "the homeliest gal in all them hills" — which is another way of saying that she was the least-attractive girl in the area.
Because he is scared that she will be single forever, her father, the mayor of the town, decides to create Sadie Hawkins Day. On this day, all of the unmarried people in town gather for an unusual race; specifically, the women run to catch the men. If a man is caught in the race, he must marry the woman who catches him! Now Sadie finally had a chance to get married!
Is Sadie Hawkins Day a real holiday now?
So if it's not an actual holiday, what exactly is it and how is it celebrated?
It would be difficult to imagine an event just like the comic in which the “loser” of a race must get married. However, Capp's comic did inspire real-life events.
In America and most other cultures around the world, it is common for men to pursue women for romantic relationships. However, just like in Li’l Abner, Sadie Hawkins Day turns this tradition around.
Inspired by the story, American college students in the late 1930s began hosting “Sadie Hawkins dances” at their schools. In these events, women must ask men for dates instead of waiting to be asked themselves.
As their popularity spread, Sadie Hawkins dances gradually became a regular part of American culture. Middle schools, high schools and colleges still hold Sadie Hawkins dances today, although sometimes they are called “turnabouts” instead. These events are in addition to “proms” and “homecomings,” which are more traditional school dances and very important events for many American students.
Although Al Capp set the date for Sadie Hawkins Day as November 26 in his comic strip, it is typically observed on November 13 or some time early in the month.
Although society has gone through many changes since the 1930s, the kind of “role reversal” inspired by Li'l Abner's Sadie Hawkins Day is still not very common even today.
However, events like these give us an opportunity to think about our culture and our ideas about what is considered “normal” in society.