the Town Red
area Red Hat Society
chapters are growing
ladies know how to have fun
Helen E. McKinney
(January 2005) Having fun after age 50 is
what the Red Hat Society is all about. With more than 250,000 members
nationally, the Red Hat Society is a phenomenon sweeping the country.
Southern Indiana and north central Kentucky are no exceptions. Red Hatters
are popping up throughout Kentuckiana, with several chapters having
Vina Williams, 82, began the Madison, Ind., Red Hat chapter
two years ago. Williams first learned of the Red Hat Society during
her winter stay in Florida. She spent 29 winters there and has started
two Red Hat groups in the Sunshine State.
During one winter, the Florida chapter visited Cypress Gardens, where
it had the entire theme park to itself for a day. With 600 Red Hatters
there, the catered event included red geraniums and purple table cloth
Williams said she instructs people, When you get old, instead
of feeling sorry for yourself, put on a red hat, purple dress and feel
good. In the Red Hat Society, Williams said the goal is for everyone
to feel welcome. Red hats and purple dresses can be purchased at garage
sales and thrift shops, or at more expensive department stores. However,
the purpose when wearing them is the same: to have fun.
Williams said she gets a kick out of being noticed in her
symbolic red and purple clothing. The organization is a social club
that gets you out. There are a lot of widows in the Madison
chapter. And youre never too old to have fun. Three members are
in their 90s.
We do a lot, said Williams, who also volunteers three days
a week for various civic and church organizations. Such participation
does your heart good, she said.
The fact that there are no obligations or officers in the society is
another plus for Williams. It is truly a fun experience, with no strings
attached. Not a day passes without people telling me that they
saw a bunch of Red Hatters recently, said Williams.
Sometimes husbands are invited for the luncheons the ladies share, but
they are asked to sit at another table, she joked. This organization
is for women only. Im so very proud of my girls, she
chapter started by Vina Williams, pictured at Cypress Gardens,
Fla., during a national Red Hat Society event.
The Red Hat Society is most commonly described by the
verb fun. Sue Ellen Cooper started this phenomenon in Fullerton,
Calif., when she impulsively bought a bright red fedora at a thrift
shop. A year or so later, Cooper read a poem by Jenny Joseph titled,
Warning, and felt an immediate kinship with the author.
The poem depicted an older woman wearing purple clothing and a red hat.
Cooper began giving the poem and vintage red hats to friends as gifts.
Soon, the friends invited more friends to dress in red hats and purple
dresses, while accompanying each other to teas and luncheons. As this
California group grew, sibling chapters were formed in other states.
Two national Red Hat Society conventions are held annually.
On her Internet website, Cooper has said, The Red Hat Society
began as a result of a few women deciding to greet middle age with verve,
humor and elan.
Underneath the frivolity, we share a bond of affection forged by common
life experiences and a genuine enthusiasm for wherever life takes us
Finding appropriate clothing and accessories locally is easy thanks
to the many shops that now carry the two popular required colors.
Wandas Gifts in downtown Madison carries Red Hat items such as
hats, scarves, feathers, jewelry, hats, boas, ink pens and stationery.
Owner Wanda Gross said the items exemplify a lot of fun. They
give the feeling of being free, fun, your own individual.
Gross is the Queen Bee of the most recently formed Madison
area Red Hat Honeys. Gross, 64, said the society just keeps growing
more all of the time. Ladies can get together as friends, eat
out, shop and become acquainted with new people, with no rules or strings
attached, she said. Its always a group thing.
A popular item this time of year with Red Hatters has been Christmas
ornaments. Middletown, Ky., resident Betty Conley crafts dough ornaments
and sells them at Head House Antiques in Middletown. Conley said she
tries to produce ornaments that cater to whatever is popular.
And the Red Hatters popularity is steadily growing on both sides of
the Ohio River.
Many of Conleys creations depict a red hat, a lady wearing a red
hat and holiday ornaments with a snowman wearing the traditional red
hat. Conley even produces table top trees decorated in the Red Hat fashion,
adorned with hats, feathers and lights.
Conley began making dough ornaments 20 years ago and embellishes them
with acrylic paints. The Red Hat ornaments sell for $2.98 to $3.98.
While Conley is best known locally for her sports-themed ornaments,
the Red Hat-themed ornaments are bringing her a brisk business from
the many local Red Hat chapters. The Red Hat Society is a great excuse
for the ladies to get together, said Conley.
the Red Hat Society began
It all began
in Tucson, Ariz., where Sue Ellen Cooper (a.k.a. The Queen Mother)
came across a bright red hat at a thrift shop. She liked it and
it was cheap, so she purchased it. A year or two had passed when
she read the poem Warning by Jenny Joseph which begins,
When I am an old woman, and then goes on to depict
a woman boldly wearing a red hat and a mismatched purple outfit.
Cooper, intrigued by the poem, decided to give her friend, Linda
Murphy, a vintage red hat with a copy of the poem as gift on her
birthday. Her thought was that her friend would be able to hang
the hat on a hook next to the framed poem on the wall.
Murphy loved the gift so much that she gave the same gift to several
of her friends. As this continued, it occurred to the women that,
without any intentions of doing so, they were forming a Red
Hat Society, and that it might be fun to go out to tea in
their red hats. To complete the image of the poem that had inspired
them, they all went out and found purple outfits to wear to tea
with their red hats.
The tea was such a success that soon each woman began inviting
friends to buy a red hat and join the group. In no time at all,
there were 18 women in red hats and purple attire trying to squeeze
around a table for tea.
As more women became interested, they were encouraged to start
their own chapters. The day one of the women told a friend in
Florida about the group of which she had grown so fond, the first
sibling chapter was born. Although the group began
with women 50 and older, membership is not restricted; members
under 50 are pink hatters who wear lavender outfits
with pink hats until the big birthday.
Sue Ellen hopes for chapters to proliferate around the globe so
that women everywhere can join hands and embrace aging with silliness
and companionship. Chapters have formed across the United States
and in several other countries. In addition to regular chapter
get-togethers, there have been two successful Red Hat Society
Conventions filling hotels with women in red hats. Sue Ellens
vision of reaching every corner of the world may not be too far
Barbara Dunn of Carrollton, Ky., was looking for something
to do at my age, when she met some Red Hatters in La Grange. Dunn,
59, described herself as a very outgoing person. For her, the Red Hat
Society is like a sisterhood.
Dunn joined the society online after reading about the society on the
national website. Dunn has organized a Carrollton chapter, the Red Hats
of Twin Rivers. She hopes her chapter will expand and members will go
places and do things as a group, or sisterhood.
For one of the chapters first projects, Dunn decorated a Red Hat
Christmas wreath, on display at Gen. Butler State Resort Park. She wants
to organize an active chapter, with meetings twice a month.
Norma Kennedy, Queen Mother of the Oldham County Red Hat Society, said
the organization is a great way to have a lot of fun. Kennedy,
81, became familiar with the society after visiting a Senior Center
in Grapevine, Texas, where she lived at the time. When Kennedy moved
to La Grange, the existing Senior Center was not very active. After
gathering Red Hat information, she held an open house at the center
and received enough positive response to start a local chapter.
As Red Hat Societys pop up around the nation, and around the globe,
women will be looking forward to their 50th birthday and loving every
day after it.
For more information on these local chapters,
contact Kennedy at (502) 225-0955, Dunn at (502) 732-5332, Williams
at (812) 273-1981 or Gross at (812) 265-5166. Or visit the national
website at: www.redhatsociety.com
to find a chapter near you.
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