The Red Hat Society was started in 1998 as a social club for women 50 and older. Founder Sue Ellen Cooper started this new unique club in Fullerton, California. She took the title Exalted Queen Mother, and became as bright a spotlight of royalty as the British royal family. Her loyal members were, and still are, called Hatters. Their way of dressing, in purple with red hats, sprang forth from a poem called, “Warning,” by Jenny Joseph, written in 1991. The poem presented the idea to senior ladies that, “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple.” The poem also presented the notion that you are never too old for fun and friendship. Whether it is meeting for tea, “dressing to the nines,” Going to the theater, museums, or just out to lunch, these non-shrinking violets were sighted everywhere. The spread of these Red Hat Society clubs was like a New Mexico wildfire. The idea spread all over the United States, then Canada, Mexico, and now they are all over the world: Argentina, Australia, Ecuador, the British Isles, the Netherlands, South Africa, Peru and Puerto Rico to name a few.
What was the message to the Red Hat Society, which in 23 years has become a corporation with by laws, attorneys, and regulations? To quote the website, “Most women give up their all to family, career, and community, but forget about time for themselves.” This organization is proof that women can devote time to all things—and the many books they have published with jokes, recipes, and stories of inspiration prove it.
Some of you that know me and my love of costumes for the melodramas I’ve directed. You can imagine that I was in line to join and wear the most outrageous purple outfits with purple hats. Mostly the joy was meeting old friends and new friends in a setting of fun and frolic. Our chapter was called the Purple Passion Posies, and Anne Dacie Lucas started it here in the East Mountains. It was about 2004 and we had no end of fun with lunches at Chili Hills celebrating birthdays in purple feathers and red chapeaus of outlandish kinds. Now there are 40,000 chapters. You can form one by contacting their home offices. It is $50 a year to be a Queen and $30 for members. So, what do you get for the money? Respect, sisterhood, good will for all, and fun and games. It used to be that those under 50 could wear light lavender and pink hats. The new Red Hat Society takes the view that age really is just a number, and you can join as a lady of any age.
Life interfered with my membership, and I let it slide. I picked up one of the Red Hat cookbooks I bought when I was cleaning out my cookbook collection. I had made up my mind to load and pawn off my books to my four granddaughters. Reading them again reminded me that in 2005 the animated television character, Marge Simpson, became a Red Hat. And they made a Broadway musical in 2006 called, “Hats.” They also have a book, “Friendship and Fun after 50.” It has Hattitude. It was a joy to relive the stories and antidotes. In 2011, the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. set up a Red Hat display. You can contact the mother house at redhatsocity.com. I miss those lovely ladies, and this might be just what we need in our recovery time after… after… OK, Covid. There I said it, and I wasn’t going to say it. I declare with my shots and my masks, it is stupid Covid, bye, bye.
In ancient times women were made to wear head coverings and some still do today. But today, we choose how we’ll wear our hats, and we choose to go to a play, a parade, or a party. It is a matter of choice. I still choose purple and red. “When I am old.” Roaring Mouse getting out the feather boas. Out.