CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Mary Johnson will present when “When Sadie Hawkins Went to College” in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston, on Thursday, Oct. 22. The program begins at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Al Capp’s popular comic strip Li’l Abner introduced Sadie Hawkins Day in November 1937. In Capp’s strip, Sadie was the daughter of one of Dogpatch’s earliest settlers, Hekzebiah Hawkins. When she reached the ripe age of 35 and was still a spinster, Hekzebiah in desperation called together all the unmarried men of Dogpatch and held a foot race, with Sadie in pursuit of the town’s eligible bachelors. The consequence of losing the race was marriage, so all the men were running for their freedom. The town spinsters decided that this was a great idea and made Sadie Hawkins Day a mandatory yearly event in Dogpatch.

Sadie Hawkins Day became a cultural phenomenon in the real world, particularly with high school and college students. Johnson will discuss how Morris Harvey College, now the University of Charleston, was one of the first colleges in the country to hold a Sadie Hawkins Day one year after Capp’s initial launch of the infamous event. She will relate some of the activities that took place on the annual holiday at Morris Harvey from 1938 to the late 1950s, including serving as the featured college for a Paramount short film on the event that was produced in 1951. Johnson also will explain how other schools in West Virginia celebrated Sadie Hawkins Day.

Johnson holds a master’s degree from West Virginia University and has been a historian at Archives and History since 2000. She has written articles for West Virginia History and The West Virginia Encyclopedia. She is the secretary of the West Virginia Historical Society and editor of its semi-annual publication which published her article “When Sadie Went to College: Morris Harvey College and Sadie Hawkins Day” earlier this year. In addition, Johnson sits on the Commission on Archives and History for the West Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Because of ongoing construction in the visitors’ parking area, participants may park behind the Culture Center after 5 p.m. on Oct. 22 and enter the building at the back loading dock area.

For additional information about the Archives and History lecture series, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the division’s programs, events and sites, visit The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.