The Red Hat Society is a social organization for women over 50.
The Society was founded in 1998 by Sue Ellen Cooper of Fullerton, California, USA, and she serves as the organization's Exalted Queen Mother.
As of October 2006 there are about 1.5 million registered members in over forty thousand chapters in the United States and thirty other countries.
The 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 fondly refers to itself as a "dis-organization" with the aim of social interaction, and to encourage fun, silliness, creativity, and friendship in middle age and beyond.
The Society is not a sorority or a voluntary service club.
There are no initiations or fundraising projects.
A founder or leader of a local chapter is usually referred to as a "Queen".
Members are called "Red Hatters".
Members 50 and over wear red hats and purple attire to all functions.
A woman under age fifty may also become a member, but she wears a pink hat and lavender attire to the Society's events until reaching her fiftieth birthday.
Both Red and Pink Hatters often wear very elaborately decorated hats, and attention-getting fashion accessories such as a feather boa at the group's get-togethers.
The Society's events vary depending on the chapter, but one of the more favored pastimes amongst most Red Hatters is attending or giving a tea party.
The organization has published four books:
Red Hat Society: Fun and Friendship after 50 and Red Hat Society's Laugh Lines: Stories of Inspiration and Hattitude, Designer Scrapbooks the Red Hat Society Way (2005, Sterling), and The Red Hat Society Cookbook which features recipes submitted by members. Regional gatherings called "Funventions" are held several times a year, along with official Red Hat Society events.
The official Red Hat Society day is April 25 each year.
In 2006 the group successfully commissioned its own musical entitled, Hats! The New Musical for the Rest of Your Life.
Ode to the Red Hat Society
A poet put it very well. She said when she was older,
She wouldn't be so meek and mild. She threatened to get bolder.
She'd put a red hat on her head, and purple on her shoulder.
She'd make her life a warmer place, her golden years much golder.
We read that poem, all of us, and grasp what she is saying.
We do not need to sit and knit, although we all are graying.
We think about what we can do. Our plans we have been laying.
Instead of working all the time, we'll be out somewhere playing.
We take her colors to our hearts, and then we all go shopping,
for purple clothes and hats of red, with giant brims a-flopping.
We're tired of working all the time, and staying home and mopping,
We order pies and chocolate fudge, and rich desserts with topping.
We crown ourselves as duchesses and countesses and queens.
We prove that playing dress-up isn't just for Halloween.
We drape ourselves in jewels, feathers, boas and sateen.
We see ourselves on television and in magazines.
We laugh, we cry, we hug a lot. We keep each other strong.
When one of us goes out for fun, the rest all go along.
We gad about, we lunch and munch, in one big happy throng.
We've found the place where we fit in, the place we all belong.
-written by Sue Ellen Cooper-
In popular culture
The Red Hat Society is paid homage to in one episode of The Simpsons, "The Last of the Red Hat Mamas," wherein Marge joins a group called The Cheery Red Tomatoes. Also, in Brian Crane's comic strip Pickles, the character Opal is a member of The Red Hat Society. In the show Still Standing,, in the episode "Still Cruising," Bill's mother, Louise, is a member of The Red Hat Society and tricks Judy, her daughter-in-law, into going on a Red Hat Society cruise with her.