Red Hat Society

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The Red Hat Society, Inc.
Red Hat Society logo.png
Current logo for the Red Hat Society.
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.[1]


The Royal Court of Queens Processional at a conference, 2014

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. She was inspired by a well-known Jenny Joseph poem, "Warning", popularised in the US after Liz Carpenter wrote about it in a Reader's Digest article and it was picked up by the greetings card industry.[2] The poem 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.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6]

The Red Hat Society membership increased through word of mouth, growing from two chapters in 1999 to over 25,000 members.[citation needed]


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

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


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 society's events vary depending on the chapter, but 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]

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]


  1. ^ press release August 3, 2010. Online journal "Red Hatter Matters" Winter 2012, p.11
  2. ^ Joseph, Jenny (1999-11-01). "Jenny Joseph on the popularity of her poem "Warning"". The Lancet. 354: SIII30–SIII32. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(99)90272-6. ISSN 0140-6736. PMID 10560651.
  3. ^ Cooper, Sue Ellen (2008). The Red Hat Society?: Fun and Friendship After Fifty. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-0446548748. Retrieved 2015-06-03.
  4. ^ Mary Jane Solomon (October 22, 2004). "Crimson Tide". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
  5. ^ "Moving beyond the age of rules - Baltimore Sun". Retrieved 2020-09-22.
  6. ^ Korky Vann (July 16, 2007). "Red Hat Society: Hats off to a celebration of friendship". The Hartford Courant. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
  7. ^ Young, BJ (2015-06-24). "Red Hat Society Queens of the Crowned Jewels chapter holds annual meeting". Delaware: VillageSoup. Retrieved 2015-06-25.
  8. ^ Nass, Shannon M. (2015-06-06). "Red Hat Society goal: Change attitudes on aging women". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
  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 Blum, Julie (2015-06-21). "Red Hatters celebrate fun, friendship at state convention". Columbus Telegram. Retrieved 2015-06-21.
  11. ^ "Chapter Contact Search"

External links[edit]

Media related to Red Hat Society at Wikimedia Commons