The Sadie Hawkins Day Dance

The term pop culture is said to have been coined back before the 19th century, and there is no denying that popular culture helps pave the way for the generations who partake in those elements. The elements of pop culture are the music, art, fashion, literature, entertainment, dance, movies, internet trends, TV, and radio that we embrace as part of our lives. The pop culture of today is heavily influenced by social media, music, and video games.

From Dorothy’s “There’s no place like home” from The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars “May the Force Be with You” to the addition of words like YOLO and Bling to the Oxford English Dictionary; pop culture influences language. Quotes, memorable words, and specific phrases from pop culture seem to easily seep into our vernacular. This has been the case for generations. Many words or phrases that we use today can be attributed to Al Capp, the creator of the Li’l Abner comic strip. The popular comic strip, which ran from 1934 to 1977, introduced words and phrases that we still use today. It introduced phrases like a double whammy and skunkworks (which is a widely used business, engineering, and technical term referring to a group within an organization who are given a high degree of autonomy to work on secret projects). The comic strip is credited for introducing us to words like schmooze and for the post-WWII popularization of adding the suffix “-nik” to the ends of adjectives to create a new noun. The comic strip is also credited with a term that entered the language lexicon and is used to define technical concepts in no fewer than four separate fields of scientific study. In socioeconomics, the shmoo refers to any generic kind of good that reproduces itself while in microbiology, ‘shmooing‘ is the term used for the budding process in yeast production. In particle physics, the shmoo refers to an instrument used to capture subatomic particles emitted from the Cygnus X-3 constellation while the shmoo is a graphic pattern of test circuits in electrical engineering.

A Li’l Abner comic strip from November 15, 1937, is also credited with introducing the world to Sadie Hawkins Day and subsequently the Sadie Hawkins Dance. In the comic strip, Sadie Hawkins was the daughter of the earliest settlers of the town of Dogpatch. Hekzebiah Hawkins’s daughter Sadie was still a spinster at the age of 35 and he wanted her out of the house. Desperately, he brought together all of the unmarried men of the town and declared the day to be “Sadie Hawkins Day”. Hekzebiah’s plan was to have a foot race, with Sadie pursuing the town’s single men and whoever she caught would be her husband. Since Sadie was known as the “homeliest gal in all them hills”, the men were running for their lives. (Side note – The footrace was inspired by the virgin huntress Atalanta, who was unwilling to marry and claimed that she would only get married if her suitors could outrun her in a footrace. The men who could not catch Atalanta were killed, and many young men died. Hippomenes sought help from the goddess Aphrodite and subsequently beat her in a footrace. They married, had a son but were turned into lions after they had sex in one of Zeus’s temples.)

Within two years of Sadie Hawkins Day’s introduction in the comic strip, Life magazine indicated in a double-page spread that over 200 colleges nationwide had their own Sadie Hawkins Day. If you haven’t heard participated in our interpretation of Sadie Hawkins Day; instead of the woman running down the men of her town, the basic premise is simply one of role-reversal. Where most of the time guys are the assertive ones and ask out the girl; well on Sadie Hawkins Day, the girl/woman takes the initiative and invites the boy/man to the Sadie Hawkins Dance. By 1952, Sadie Hawkins Day was being celebrated in over 40,000 venues and it was more than just a time to ask a boy to a dance. It had become a woman-empowering rite in high schools and colleges, long before our modern feminist movement. 

Though Capp didn’t like the creative constriction; fans showered him with letters urging him to write make Sadie Hawkins Day an annual occurrence with different single women in Dogpatch getting to chase the bachelors in the town to find their new beau. So every November for four decades, Capp wrote included a Sadie Hawkins Day in the comic strip. Even though the Li’l Abner comic strip ended on November 13, 1977, the Celebration of Sadie Hawkins Day did not. Many high schools, college campuses, and communities around the world hold Sadie Hawkins Day dances. The dance’s name has even been changed to Sweethearts, Girl’s Choice, Girls ask Guys, etc and sometimes even referred to as a Snow Ball, since the Sadie Hawkins Dance was always held in November . Similar dances have been organized for single adults. Dances sometimes called Spinsters’ Balls have been held across America and even in other parts of the world. So I guess a lot shy men around the world can thank Capp for influencing women to take the initiative and ask you to dance.

Images:

Li’l Abner comic strip attributed to Internet Archive Book Images – https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14766218645/Source book page: https://archive.org/stream/ladieshomejourna65janwyet/ladieshomejourna65janwyet#page/n475/mode/1up, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43983226

Al Capp at 1966 Art Festival in Florida attributed to Tom Simondi – I attended the festival with twin lens reflex (2.25″ square negative) in hand and took the picture. Previously published: Not published, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22898060

Dogpatch USA – Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=408001

The Race between Hippomenes and Atalanta by Noël Hallé – Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15394801

Ed Westcott on Sadie Hawkins day 1944 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee by doe-oakridge – Sadie Hawkins Day 1944 Oak Ridge, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65681467

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