The Red Hat Society Lives On

Any commentary about older women and fashion in America must address the Red Hat Society, a loosely knit organization of women over fifty.  Moreover, the founder of the group, Sue Ellen Cooper, hails from my neck of the woods in Southern California.  It is primarily a social club, and members save their colorful outfits for their gatherings (called events, not meetings).  Covid brought the cancellation of recent national meetings, but the photo above of a Red Hat “prom” in West Virginia shows that things are getting started again.

The organization began in 1998.  Sue Ellen Cooper gave a friend a red hat for her fifty-fifth birthday, inspired by now well-known lines of a poem by Jenny Joseph:  “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple/ With a red hat that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.”  Members of the organization follow these instructions in their dress (although sometimes the hats do suit them).  There are now thousands of Red Hat groups in the US and other countries. Their mission statement calls the organization “a global society of women that supports and encourages women in their pursuit of fun, friendship, freedom, fulfillment, and fitness.” 

Earlier photos of the society events show a sea of red and purple.  I’m glad to see from the photo above that the dress code for events appears to have loosened up!  Not only are members wearing outfits of different colors, several don’t even wear hats.  And isn’t it nice to see a racially integrated women’s club? 

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3 Responses to The Red Hat Society Lives On

  1. JS says:

    Sorry, I think they’re absolutely pathetic. Always have. Instead of fighting age and irrelevance by wearing funny hats, why aren’t they battling for women and other people who need help? There are lots of issues: Roe v. Wade is about to be overturned. There is no safe, available, reasonably priced daycare. Women aren’t paid equally. Men aren’t doing their share in the home. Children are being slaughtered in their classrooms by teenage gunmen. I could go on and on.

    Don’t they care about what’s happening to their gender and to younger generations of women who are facing the same damn problems? What about other issues?

    Years ago, I read an article about a musical mounted by the Red Hat Society. I believe it was about a woman who was about to turn 50. She sang a song that went something like:

    “50 is the youth of old age.”

    Wow, how inspiring. Their writers are as poor as their stylists.

    • JS says:

      Sure, it’s nice that the organization is racially inclusive. But as a Black woman, and given my view of it, all it shows is that Black women can be as foolish as everyone else. Such equal opportunity is progress of a sort, I guess.

      At least they’re not Black Republicans.

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