“I’m Just Sayin'” Blog Post: Unconventional Women Leaders: Sadie Hawkins and Betty Boop

Mary E. Montoro

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Helen Kane and Betty Boop Photo Courtesy by


The fictional Sadie Hawkins should be considered a leader in the feminism movement. Before her, women didn’t have a voice outside the home. Their opinions were ignored. The man was the center of their universe, and then their children. Sadie Hawkins broke all those rules on November 1952 when she had a day declared after her. And she wasn’t even real! Sadie started as a cartoon character, by creator Al Capp, in the Li’l Abner strip in the 30s that ran for over 40 years. She was considered to be the “homeliest gal in all them hills.” The young girl was desperately in love with Adam Olis who was engaged to Sadie’s nemesis Miss Theresa who came for a well to do family. Sadie’s daddy, Hekzebiah felt badly for his little girl and organized a race where the “winner” married his daughter.

All the bachelors, willingly or reluctantly, got together and ran after Hekzebiah fired his gun and said ….”The one she ketches’ll be her husbin.” These men ran as fast and far as their limbs could carry them.

Sadie Hawkins soon became Sadie Jonston when she caught John Jonston. Olis came in fourth place.

The single women enjoyed the race and the idea of catching a man. On November 13th, Sadie Hawkins Day was declared and enforced every year. The men of Dogpatch, USA were not happy but obliged.

Because of the invented day, Sadie Hawkins Day became a reality. High schools and colleges would have Sadie Hawkins dances where it was a ladies’ right to choose who her dance partner would be.

Another non-human who made an impact was the original “boop-oop-a-doop” girl Betty Boop. The cute woman with a huge head adorned with earrings and bracelets and tiny figure was modeled over several different women and became a heated court case in 1930.

Fleischer v. Kane lawsuit, Kane lost due to her signature not being solely hers 

Betty Boop made her debut on August 9, 1932 as a French poodle. She became human in 1932, changing the floppy ears to gold hoop earrings, fashioned after actress Helen Kane. Esther Jones, known professionally as Baby Esther, is recognized as being Betty Boop’s black grandmother. She was an entertainer during the 1920s in Harlem’s Cotton Club. She developed a nasal baby voice whenever she sang.  At the 1932 trial, Fleischer v. Kane, the actress sued for $250,000 for “exploiting her image.” After two years, the judge tossed out the case explaining that Kane’s “singing style was unique and not an imitation itself,” and Baby Esther was doing the “boop-oop-a-doop” long before Kane ever did.

Esther Jones and Betty Boop Photo courtesy by

In fact, Jones’ agent sat with Kane during a Jones performance where she did her baby voice. It was assumed that at that time Baby Esther passed away around 1934. During the two-year wait, Max Fleischer, one of Betty Boop creators, found a piece of film where Jones uttered the famous line. This proved to the judge that Kane did not originate the sound and lost the case.  After 70 years, the poodle turned human star remains a beloved character.

With her pixie cut, gold earrings, shapely figure and babyish voice she remains America’s sweetheart. Of course, I'm just sayin"!
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“I’m Just Sayin'” Blog Post: Unconventional Women Leaders: Sadie Hawkins and Betty Boop