EVER WONDER by Jacque Scott: Red Hat Society

Red Hat Society

Ever want to know more about those wonderful ladies who are wearing purple outfits with red hats?  I just had to find out more about them.  They just look like they are having so much fun.  You might like to know a little more about them too.

The Red Hat Society takes its name from the opening lines of the poem ‘Warning’ by Jenny Joseph, which starts:

“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

With a red hat that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.”

The Red Hat Society is a social organization for women over 50.  Sue Ellen Cooper of Fullerton, California founded it in 1998.  The Society’s sole aim is ‘fun’.

It encourages creativity, silliness, and friendship in middle-aged women and beyond. It is not a sorority or a voluntary service club.  There are no initiations or fundraisers. In October of 2006, there were 1.5 million registered members in the United States.  The Society is unique because a club’s activities are completely dependent on the whims of its members.  There are no common causes.  Events vary depending on the chapter.

It all started in the late 90’s when Sue Ellen Cooper visited a friend of hers in Tucson, Arizona.  She impulsively bought a dashing red fedora hat in a thrift shop.  A year or two later, she read the poem by Jenny Joseph which tells of an older woman wearing a purple dress with a red hat.  Sue Ellen fell in love with the poem and thought a perfect gift for her best friend’s birthday would be a vintage red hat and a copy of the poem.

The red hat was a great whimsical decorating piece hanging on a hook next to the framed poem.  Her friend, Linda, got so much pleasure from the hat and the poem that Sue Ellen gave the gift to another friend, then another and another.

It occurred to all of these friends that they were becoming a sort of ‘Red Hat Society’ and that they should all go out to tea in their red hats.  It was also decided that they should all wear purple dresses, which didn’t go with the red hats, to complete the poem’s image.  The tea was a great success and attending or giving a tea party remains one of the more favored chapter activities.

Soon each of the women brought friends and more red hats.  When the group swelled to eighteen, they encouraged ladies to start their own chapters.  Eighteen ladies just don’t fit around a tea table very well.  One of the members passed the idea along to a friend in Florida, and a ‘sister’ group was formed.

The founder or leader of each group is called a ‘Queen’.  Members are called ‘Red Hatters’.  ‘Pink Hatters’ are women under 50 who may join, but they must wear pink hats and lavender outfits until they turn 50.  There are special 50th birthday coronations when they are crowned and serenaded with kazoos and clappers.

Both Red Hatters and Pink Hatters often wear very elaborately decorated hats.  Sometimes a feather boa or two are added to make the attire more attention getting.

Successful Red Hat Society conventions are held several times a year, and entire hotels are filled with middle age and beyond women all wearing red hats and purple outfits.  The only fashion rule is “gaudy is good”.

So, are you feeling bolder as you get older?  The red Hat Society may be just the thing for fun and companionship in your retirement years.

Guess what?  Red Hat Society day is April 25.  Live with gusto…..go out and buy a red hat.  God bless you.   

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