Red Hat Society

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For other uses, see Red Hat (disambiguation).
Members wearing red hats.

The Red Hat Society (RHS) is a social organization originally founded in 1998 in the United States for women age 50 and beyond, but now open to women of all ages. As of 2011, there were over 40,000 chapters in the United States and 30 other countries.[1]


The founder of the Society is artist Sue Ellen Cooper, who lives in Fullerton, Orange County, California. In 1997, Cooper gave a friend a 55th birthday gift consisting of a red bowler purchased at an antique store along with a copy of Jenny Joseph's poem "Warning". The opening lines of the poem read:

Cooper repeated the gift on request several times, and eventually several of the women bought purple outfits and held a tea party on April 25, 1998.[2]

After spreading by word of mouth, the Society first received national publicity in 2000 through the magazine Romantic Homes[2] and a feature in The Orange County Register.[3] Cooper then established a "Hatquarters" to field the hundreds of e-mail requests for help starting chapters. She now serves as "Exalted Queen Mother", and has written two best-selling books about the Society, "The Red Hat Society: Friendship and Fun After Fifty" published in April 2004 and "The Red Hat Society's Laugh Lines: Stories of Inspiration and Hattitude" published in April 2005.[3]

In 2011 the Red Hat Society started naming a Red Hatter of the year.

2011 – Linda Theriot [4]

2012 – Barb Lesiak [5]

2013 – Mary Mimbs [6]

2014 – Marilyn Cresci [7]


Neva Morris, at age 110, wearing the hat presented to her by the Red Hat Society in October 2005.
Meeting at Multnomah Falls, Oregon

The Red Hat Society’s primary purpose is social interaction and bonding among women.

A founder or leader of a local chapter is usually referred to as a "Queen". Members 50 and over are called "Red Hatters" and wear red hats and purple attire to all functions. A woman under age 50 may also become a member, but she wears a pink hat and lavender attire to the Society's events until reaching her 50th birthday. She is referred to as a “Pink Hatter.” During her birthday month (or the Society's birthday month of April), a member might wear her colors in reverse, i.e., a purple or lavender hat and red or pink attire.

There are two ways of belonging to the Red Hat Society: as a Queen (usually leader of a local chapter; however, no Queen is required to lead a chapter) and as a Supporting Member. Membership dues are paid annually, respective to the attendee's role, to the Red Hat Society. Interested prospects can register to become members online.


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 most common pastimes among Red Hatters is attending or hosting a tea party. Other activities, freely chosen and planned by the individual chapters, include crafts, games, theater or cinema trips, music-making (often on kazoos), and various outings.

Chapters often work together to host large regional events, and Hatquarters hosts several official Red Hat Society events each year.

The official Red Hat Society day is April 25 each year.

In 2006, a musical titled Hats! The Musical (book by Marcia Milgrom Dodge and Anthony Dodge) made its debut.[8][9]

The organization has published several books:

  • Designer Scrapbooks the Red Hat Society Way
  • Red Hat Society: Fun and Friendship after Fifty
  • Red Hat Society's Laugh Lines: Stories of Inspiration and Hattitude
  • Red Hats and the Women Who Wear Them
  • Sassy, Classy, and Still Sparkling
  • The Red Hat Society Cookbook and Eat Dessert First (both featuring recipes submitted by members.)

Worldwide membership[edit]

The Red Hat Society has spread to other countries in the world. As of 2011, besides the thousands of chapters in the U.S., there were local chapters of the Society in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Ecuador, England, Finland, Germany, Greece, Guam, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxemburg, Mexico, Namibia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, and Wales.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

The Red Hat Society is parodied in an episode of The Simpsons, "The Last of the Red Hat Mamas", when Marge joins a group called the Cheery Red Tomatoes.

In Brian Crane's comic strip Pickles, the character Opal is a member of the Red Hat Society.

In an episode of the show Still Standing, "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.

In Corner Gas, a Canadian sitcom, one of the main characters, Lacey Burrows, joins the "Purple Hat Society", a reference to the Red Hat Society.

In Rules of Engagement, Russell Dunbar gets stranded on a cruise ship full of Red Hatters, when mistakenly assuming the lady cruise is a singles cruise.

In the comic strip Mother Goose and Grimm a Red Hatter is shown sitting with the College of Cardinals. One of the cardinals informs her, "Madame, this is not that kind of red hat society."

In episode 10, "Field of Streams," of The Cleveland Show Terry suggests to Cleveland they, "Start a fight with those old ladies in red hats and purple dresses at the mall." A weapon laced melee ensues. Later in the episode, a giant group of ladies wearing red hats and purple dresses show up wielding weapons and itching for a vengeance.

The Cleveland Show again references the Red Hat Society in episode 12, "Our Gang," when an elderly lady in a purple dress and red hat interjects a comment from a crowd about buying candy for a nickel.


7. The Red Hat Society About Us; About the Founder

8. Mentioned in the play "Murder in the Knife Room" by Jonathan Rand

External links[edit]