When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple
with a red hat that doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin candles, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired
and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
and run my stick along the public railings
and make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
and pick the flowers in other people's gardens
and learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
and eat three pounds of sausages at a go
or only bread and pickles for a week
and hoard pens and pencils and beer nuts and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
and pay our rent and not swear in the street
and set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
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.
The Red Hat Society
The Red Hat Society began as a result of a few women deciding to greet middle age with verve, humor, and elan. We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life, and, since we are all in it together, we might as well join red-gloved hands and go for the gusto together. Underneath the frivolity, we share a bond of affection, forged by common life experiences and a genuine enthusiasm for wherever life takes us next.
Women of a certain age wearing red hats and purple outfits! Could world domination be far behind?!
How it started
"The Red Hat Society began as a result of a few women deciding to greet middle age with verve, humor and elan. We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life, and since we are all in it together, we might as well join red-gloved hands and go for the gusto together. Underneath the frivolity, we share a bond of affection, forged by common life experiences and a genuine enthusiasm for wherever life takes us next."
- Sue Ellen Cooper, Queen Mother
Photo taken in November 2001
(Top row, left to right) Pat Judson, Jane Farrington, Jeanne McLeod
(Middle row) Mary Ellen Lamparter, Cheryl Hertel, Polly McLaughlin, Sandy Santillan, Sue Davis, Sherry Friend, Maureen Burton, Marcia Harline, Vicki Raudabaugh, Susan Powers, Marie Rowden
(Bottom row) Chris Carroll, Carol Sibley, "EQM" Sue Ellen Cooper
While visiting a friend in Tucson several years ago, Sue Ellen impulsively bought a bright red fedora at a thrift shop, for no other reason than that it was cheap and, she thought, quite dashing. A year or two later she read the poem "Warning" by Jenny Joseph, which depicts an older woman in purple clothing with a red hat. Sue Ellen felt an immediate kinship with Ms. Joseph. She decided that her birthday gift to her dear friend, Linda Murphy, would be a vintage red hat and a copy of the poem. She has always enjoyed whimsical decorating ideas, so she thought the hat would look nice hanging on a hook next to the framed poem. Linda got so much enjoyment out of the hat and the poem that Sue Ellen gave the same gift to another friend, then another, then another.
One day it occurred to these friends that they were becoming a sort of "Red Hat Society" and that perhaps they should go out to tea... in full regalia. They decided they would find purple dresses which didn't go with their red hats to complete the poem's image.
The tea was a smashing success.
Soon, each of them thought of another woman or two she wanted to include, and they bought more red hats. Their group swelled to 18, and they began to encourage other interested people to start their own chapters (18 women don't fit well around a tea table). One of their members passed along the idea to a friend of hers in Florida, and their first "sibling" group was born.
Sue Ellen's fondest hope is that these societies will proliferate far and wide. We have now held three successful Red Hat Society conventions entire hotels filled with women of a certain age wearing red hats and purple outfits! Could world domination be far behind?