BY E. Dave
29, February 2012
February 29, 2012, ladies this is leap year. Have you asked your significant other for his hand in matrimony? As you know Leap Year is a similar tradition of “allowing” women to propose marriage on February 29 which is also known unofficially as Sadie Hawkins Day.
As a Tennessean, I know I am dating myself, but I remember those Sadie Hawkins Day dances we used to have in high school. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the cartoonist Al Capp, he had a classic comic strip called “Lil Abner” from 1934 to 1977. In Lil Abner, Sadie Hawkins was the daughter of one of Dogpatch’s (Dogpatch was the fictional setting of Al Capp’s comic strip, earliest settlers, Hekzebiah Hawkins. She was the “homeliest gal in all them hills” and she grew frantic waiting for suitors to “come a-courtin.” When she reached the age of 35, she was considered a spinster and her father was even more frantic that Sadie might be living at home for the rest of her life. Out of desperation he called together all of the unmarried men of Dogpatch and declared it “Sadie Hawkins Day.” As a result, a foot race was proclaimed, with Sadie in hot pursuit of the town’s eligible bachelors with matrimony as the goal.
“When ah fires [my gun], all o’ yo’ kin start a-runnin! When ah fires agin—after givin’ yo’ a fair start—Sadie starts a runnin’. Th’ one she ketches’ll be her husbin.” The town’s unmarried women decided that this was such a good idea; they made Sadie Hawkins Day a mandatory yearly event, much to the chagrin of Dogpatch bachelors. In the tongue in cheek spirit that drove the strip, many sequences revolved around the dreaded Sadie Hawkins Day race. If a woman caught a bachelor and dragged him, kicking and screaming, across the finish line before sundown—by law he had to marry her!
Sadie Hawkins Day was first mentioned in the November 15, 1937 Lil Abner daily strip, with the race actually taking place between November 19 and November 30 in the continuity. It would prove to be a popular annual feature in Lil Abner, and a cultural phenomenon outside the strip.
By 1952, Sadie Hawkins Day was reportedly celebrated at 40,000 known venues. It became a day-long event observed in Canada and in the United States on the Saturday that follows November 9. Capp’s creation captured the imagination of young people in high schools and on college campuses where girls chase boys. Women and girls take the bold initiative by inviting the man or boy of their choice out on a date – typically to a dance attended by other bachelors and their assertive dates.