with "hattitude" make aging a fun thing
in March 2004, the Bethany Red Hat Society boasts 21 fun red hatters
as members so far.
an old woman
I shall wear purple
with a red hat which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me
. . . but maybe I ought to
practice a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old
and start to wear purple.”
— excerpt from poem “Warning” by
The little northwest Missouri park is as quiet as a gentle spring shower.
Suddenly, as if the rain made them bloom, a sea of red hats and purple
outfits appears as the Bethany Red Hat Society gathers for an informal
The Red Hat Society
is a fun and light-hearted new women’s
movement aimed at changing the perception of aging women in the world.
The goal is to enjoy the bonds of sisterhood as women travel through
the aging process together. In March, Iva Polley registered the local
chapter with the official “hatquarters” of
the society in Fullerton, Calif.
“I have five
Iva, “so we were really a group
before we registered the chapter name. We just made it official.”
Iva Polley, "queen" of the Bethany Red Hat Society
new group already has 21 red-hatted members, age 50 and up. Humor and fun
are the top priorities of these non-conformists with bold “hattitudes” as
they call it.
The idea of this
fun “disorganization” began
in 1997 when Sue Ellen Cooper, founder of the Red Hat Society, gave
a copy of the poem “Warning” and
a bright vintage hat to a friend for her 55th birthday. Her friend
enjoyed the gift so much Sue Ellen began giving the same gift to other
friends. Soon each women thought of other friends they wanted to include
and the Red Hat Society was officially organized. Adopting a royal
theme for fun, Sue Ellen claims the title of “queen mother” and
those who start chapters are dubbed “queens.”
groups choose a specific focus, such as golfing, sewing, quilting
or reading, other groups want to make this a social gathering strictly
for fun and laughter.
really want another day designated for a specific meeting,” says
Iva, the queen of the Bethany chapter. “We’re already
in enough of those. Our group meets pretty spontaneously; just about
anything can cause a red-hat gathering.”
While there are no
real rules, there are strong suggestions. The only true requirement
is to have a red hat and purple outfit and the nerve to wear them
in public. “Nobody would follow them anyway,” Iva says
regarding the rules many other organizations follow.
under 50, the Red Hat Society welcomes you although it’s
recommended you wear a pink hat and lavender outfit until your
big day. Until then, you’re dubbed a “pinkie.”
birthdays are celebrated, age is not. If it’s your birthday
month, you wear a purple hat and red outfit, to let others
know to celebrate with you. Starting a local chapter is easy.
All you need is $35 to register your chapter’s name,
which you renew each year.
are approximately 24,000 chapters in the United States and 25 countries.
Of those chapters, 614 belong to Missourians who embrace the world
with humor and fun as top priorities in life. The society has grown
quickly as red hat membership approaches the half-million
the frivolity, we share a bond of affection, forged by common life
experiences and a genuine enthusiasm for wherever life takes us next,” says
Queen Mother Sue Ellen.
Red-hatters can also
attend an official national convention. The next one is scheduled for
June 24-29, 2005 in Las Vegas.
a local chapter but they’re currently closed to new
members, don’t fret; start up your own chapter.
You can join as many other chapters as you’d
like. Again, there are no rules.
“It truly is
a disorganization. We don’t have dues and
take roll call. If you only want to come to something
once a year, that’s
OK with us,” she says.
married, single, widowed, divorced,” says Iva. “You’re
never alone when you’ve got a bunch of red
While the Bethany
Red Hat Society meets for the occasional brunch or dessert,
they do have a few items on their social calendar
such as attending a photography exhibit in June
and riding in Bethany’s Fourth of July
parade. Other plans include learning how to line
dance — while
wearing red hats of course.
Most members of the
chapter compare the Red Hat Society to being
a little girl again. “It’s like
playing dress up,” says one member. Another
lady chimes in, “We’ve always
been red hat, we just didn’t
have the hat yet!”
locate a Red Hat Society chapter in your area or to find out how to
begin your own group, log on to www.redhatsociety.com or call (714)