The History of Sadie Hawkins Dances

The High School Special Event That Began in a Comic Strip

Sadie Hawkins Dances
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Until recently, it was accepted that boys asked girls to dances, but not the other way round. This is no longer true for high-school proms, certainly. But something remains of this now generally outdated practice in what's known as either the Sadie Hawkins Dance or the Sadie Hawkins Day Dance, a special dance event where only the girl is allowed to ask; boys get to experience what it feels like to wait and wonder if they'll be invited

Who Was Sadie Hawkins?

So just who was this Sadie Hawkins girl? Believe it or not, the entire tradition of the girl-asks-boy dance originates from a comic strip. In the famous cartoon-turned-musical "Li'l Abner," there was a designated day in November when unmarried women could chase bachelors around the town; if they caught them, so the story goes, the men were obliged to marry their pursuers. 

According to the story, first mentioned in a November 1937 edition of Al Kapp's famous comic strip, Miss Sadie Hawkins was "the homeliest gal in all them hills" and this fateful day was her favorite -- and the town bachelors' most dreaded -- day of the year. As the comic gained popularity, a holiday inspired by the perpetually single Sadie was born

When Is Sadie Hawkins Day?

No one knows for sure. The event was first mentioned in the comic strip on November 15th, 1937, but without specification of a date. It was an annual Lil Abner event, but Kapp wasn't consistent about when it occurred beyond introducing it anytime from the middle to the end of November. 

A completely different day, February 29th has also been proposed. Time's Melissa Locker wrote a 2012 article about the dance and proposed that it always occurred on February 29th because that day only occurs in leap years. She may (or may not) have confused this date for a dance where women ask men with an older Irish tradition, Leap Day, where a dance with the same role reversal occurred. 

How Did Sadie Hawkins Dances Begin?

Both high-schools and colleges across the US drew inspiration from the quirky holiday and began throwing dances on a date designated Sadie Hawkins Day. Various conflicting rationales for the dance's date have been proposed, but it was a fictional event to begin with, one where the creator of the event never specified the date. Kapp, close up, was not the most amiable of artists and when questioned about the date would say only that "it was whenever I say it is." In the absence of an origin date, each institution was free to choose its own date and to embellish the details of the dance in whatever way appealed to them. 

An Interesting Footnote

Two different season two episodes of Disney's Lizzie McGuire series referenced the dance. One of them, season two's 2004 episode eight, centered on the middle school drama that included Ethan's rejection of Lizzie's invitation to the school's Sadie Hawkins Dance. 

Kapp had died about 25 years earlier, but the estate's lawyers swung into action and sued Disney for copyright violation. They lost.