According to an article in Antiques and Collecting magazine, this tradition began with the "Li'l Abner" comic strip, one of the most famous and popular American comic strips.
"Li'l Abner," created by Al Capp, depicted a countrified America as it once was, through the adventures of its characters in Dogpatch, U.S.A, stated an article in National Review magazine.
Sadie Hawkins is one of Capp's most memorable characters, who made her first appearance in November 1937. Until the mid-50s, November was known as Sadie Hawkins month and became an unofficial collegiate holiday and a comic strip character classic.
Hawkins was the ugly daughter of the most wealthy and powerful man in town and was avoided by all the town's men. Despite her family's prestige, she seemed destined to suffer the utmost humiliation with which a woman could be cursed — becoming an old maid.
Hawkins' father intervened and used his power to snare her a man. He lined up all eligible males and shot off his gun. When the gun was fired, they knew to run for their lives and their freedom.
The gunshot signaled the unwed females to enter the race and try to catch a man. When an unfortunate male was brought back, most often kicking and screaming, he had no choice but to marry the woman.
Hawkins seemed to be as quick on her feet as she was ugly and finally chased her man down. The other girls, who did not manage to catch their man, liked the idea and made Sadie Hawkins Day an annual affair to be cherished by women and dreaded by bachelors.
Capp also came up with the idea for a Sadie Hawkins dance, which captured the imaginations of American college kids. The craze spread throughout the '40s and '50s, and continues today.