Red Hat Society

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The Red Hat Society, Inc.
Red Hat Society logo.png
Current logo for the Red Hat Society.
Motto"Red Hatters Matter"
TypeSocial organization
HeadquartersFullerton, California
Chief Executive Officer
Debra Granich
Founder & Exalted Queen Mother
Sue Ellen Cooper

The Red Hat Society (RHS) is an international social organization that was founded in 1998 in the United States for women age 50 and beyond, but now open to women of all ages. Its main purpose is to provide women with opportunities for pleasant social interaction, both for reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. There are more than 50,000 members in the United States and 30 other countries. [1]


The Royal Court of Queens Processional at a recent conference.

In the fall of 1997, Sue Ellen Cooper, an artist from Fullerton, California, purchased an old red fedora for $7.50 from a thrift shop during a trip to Tucson, Arizona. When a good friend was nearing a 55th birthday, Cooper cast about for an idea for an original gift. Inspired by a well-known Jenny Joseph poem, "Warning", which begins “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple, with a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me.” Cooper wanted to encourage her friend to grow older in a playful manner. She gave her friend a red hat of her own suggesting that she keep it as a reminder to grow older playfully and on her terms.[2]

The symbolism behind the red hat affected women Cooper encountered. Those women responded by wearing their own red hats and entering a new women’s movement that embraced a renewed outlook on life filled with fun and friendship, fulfilling lifelong dreams.

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, at which the Red Hat Society began.[3]

After spreading by word of mouth, the society first gained national attention through an article written by journalist Lori Basheda for The Orange County Register that was reprinted in newspapers across the country.[4]

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.[5]

The Red Hat Society membership increased through word of mouth, growing from two chapters in 1999 to over 35,000 members.

Red Hatter of the year[edit]

In 2011, the RHS started a process of nominating a member to be the "Red Hatter of the Year". Nominees are made up of inspiring women who deserve recognition for the effect they have had in the lives of others.

The Red Hatter of the year is the highest national recognition given to a member who shows influence, dedication, and involvement to her community and fellow members. [6]

This recognition program ended in 2018 for a total of 8 individuals named. Those 8 by year are:

  • 2011 Linda Theriot
  • 2012 Barb Lesiak
  • 2013 Mary Mimbs
  • 2014 Marilyn Cresci
  • 2015 Flo Gaines
  • 2016 Patty Stevens
  • 2017 Sue Nicholson
  • 2018 Marcy LeSalle


The Red Hat Society booth at the AARP convention in Miami in 2015.

The Red Hat Society is an international society of women that connects, supports and encourages women in their pursuit of fun, friendship, freedom, fulfillment and fitness while supporting members in the quest to get the most out of life.

The Red Hat Society’s primary purpose is social interaction and bonding among women.[7] In the early part of their lives, most women give their all to family, career, and community. But, along the way, sometimes their existing bonds of friendship gradually diminish. Membership in the Red Hat Society can be used for reconnecting old friends, making new friends and rediscovering the joy of getting together with other women for the express purpose of having fun.

The society promotes periods of "recess" from the cares and duties of everyday life in which members gather for no other purpose than to play.

The benefits of being a part of the Red Hat Society include interpersonal connections and emotional support systems built among Sisters (other members) both online and offline. Members of the society support one another in every life stage from all corners of the globe. RHS members are reshaping the way women are viewed in today's culture by promoting fun, friendship, freedom from stereotypes, and fulfillment of goals and dreams. The RHS sees physical fitness as the foundation on which they base healthy, rewarding lives.

A founder or leader of a local chapter is usually referred to as a "Queen".[8] 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.[7]


Women who wish to join the society can do so by going to the Red Hat Society website to sign up as a Queen or Member. Individuals can then search for chapters based on location or geography and then connect with local chapters by using tools on the society website. Any woman may join the Red Hat Society as a Queen of an individual chapter or as a supporting member of a local chapter. There are supporting members who do not belong to any local chapter but have access to the RHS website, online communities, special communications, and discounts.[7]


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.[9][10]

The Red Hat Society is dedicated to encouragement of a positive life outlook through the sisterhood of a local chapter.[10] Members gather in large and small local chapters to have fun and support one another, though some Hatters chose to remain individual members and participate in activities as their schedule allows.

The society's events vary depending on the chapter, but one of the most common activities among Red Hatters include hosting tea parties, playing games, going to movies or theater events, traveling on excursions and to larger RHS conventions.[10]


The organization has published several books:

  • 2005. Designer Scrapbooks - the Red Hat Society Way. ISBN 978 1402720000
  • 2006. Red Hats and the Women who Wear Them. ISBN 978 1579909949
  • 2007. Eat Dessert First!: The Red Hat Society Dessert Cookbook. ISBN 978-1418568818
  • 2008. The Red Hat Society?: Fun and Friendship After Fifty. ISBN 9780446548748
  • 2008. The Red Hat Society's Laugh Lines: Stories of Inspiration and Hattitude. ISBN 978 0446549035
  • 2008. Sassy, Classy, and Still Sparkling: Celebrating Life After 50. ISBN 978 1404105201

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, Luxembourg, Mexico, Namibia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, and Wales.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In one episode of Howard Stern's show Howard Stern On Demand it is revealed the wife of Daniel Carver is a Red Hatter
  • In 2006, a musical titled Hats! The Musical (book by Marcia Milgrom Dodge and Anthony Dodge) made its debut.[12][13]
  • 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.[14]
  • 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, booking his ticket after mistakenly reading Red Hat Ladies as red hot ladies.
  • 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 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.
  • The official Red Hat Society day is April 25 each year.[15]
  • In November 2016, a comedy by Art Shulman, "The Yentas Wear Red Hats" premieres in North Hollywood, California.[16]
  • April 25, 2018 marks the 20th Anniversary of The Red Hat Society
  • April 25, 2018: Cartoonist, Brian Crane, showcases The Red Hat Society in his Pickles cartoon[17] spotlighting the 20th Anniversary and the fact that the first red hat and purple boa are now found in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.


  1. ^ press release August 3, 2010. Online journal "Red Hatter Matters" Winter 2012, p.11
  2. ^ Cooper, Sue Ellen (2008). The Red Hat Society?: Fun and Friendship After Fifty. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-0446548748. Retrieved 2015-06-03.
  3. ^ Mary Jane Solomon (October 22, 2004). "Crimson Tide". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
  4. ^ "Moving beyond the age of rules - Baltimore Sun". Retrieved 2020-09-22.
  5. ^ Korky Vann (July 16, 2007). "Red Hat Society: Hats off to a celebration of friendship". The Hartford Courant. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
  6. ^ "Hatter of the Year". Red Hat Society. Archived from the original on 2016-04-13. Retrieved 2016-04-25.
  7. ^ a b c Nass, Shannon M. (2015-06-06). "Red Hat Society goal: Change attitudes on aging women". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
  8. ^ Young, BJ (2015-06-24). "Red Hat Society Queens of the Crowned Jewels chapter holds annual meeting". Delaware: VillageSoup. Retrieved 2015-06-25.
  9. ^ Gray, Jessica (2014-05-17). "Why I Wear What I Wear: Carol Thompson". Great Falls Tribune. Archived from the original on 2015-06-21. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
  10. ^ a b c Blum, Julie (2015-06-21). "Red Hatters celebrate fun, friendship at state convention". Columbus Telegram. Retrieved 2015-06-21.
  11. ^ "Chapter Contact Search"
  12. ^ "Hats! – About". Archived from the original on 2012-07-23. Retrieved 2012-06-27.
  13. ^ Hats! The Musical Archived 2012-06-28 at the Wayback Machine Samuel French, Inc. ISBN 978-0-573-69672-5
  14. ^ Delaney, Tim. Simpsonology: There's a Little Bit of Springfield in All of Us. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1615921348. Retrieved 2015-06-02.
  15. ^ Masters, Linda (2015-04-25). "Wake Up! It's Saturday". The Baxter Bulletin. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
  16. ^ Vojtech Luza, Radomir (2016-12-28). "The Yentas Wear Red Hats". NoHo Communications Group. Retrieved 2017-03-22.
  17. ^ Crane, Brian (April 25, 2018). "Pickles by Brian Crane for April 25, 2018 |". GoComics.

External links[edit]

Media related to Red Hat Society at Wikimedia Commons