The Red Hat Society offers women
an opportunity to have fun with
kindred spirits. Pink Hatters (below)
are women younger than 50; they
wear pink hats and lavender
clothing. Upon their 50th birthday
they receive their first red hat.
lengthy activities. In contrast, Guhl’s group
consists mostly of retired women who opt
for daytime events.
Grenier’s chapter also opts for daytime events because they travel to senior
lodges to entertain residents with dances
and skits. These daytime outings are
viewed as an addition to more raucous
events such as pajama parties. The Prairie
Angels celebrate these events with popcorn, chick flicks and dancing.
Potter remembers when her group
met at a restaurant in their pajamas—
sweats and other comfy clothes. One
lady’s son was so embarrassed by his
mother’s behavior that he refused to walk
in when it was time to pick her up.
All four women say they can’t go anywhere without being stopped by strangers
on the street or fellow patrons in restaurants. Often it’s men stopping the group to
tell them how gorgeous they look, find out
how their wives can join or buy them drinks.
for a while, until I got tired of the
scaffolding, then freelanced greet-ing-card art from home. That
business changed somewhat, and
I didn’t have a plan for what was
next. Children grown and gone—
maybe I would delve into cooking
and gardening in a big way?
“Are you familiar with the
A spirit of “disorganized organization”
rules these chapters. Guhl, who belongs to
the Beach Belles, says her group has only
two rules. The first is to wear a red hat and
purple clothing; the second is to have fun.
OBEYING THOSE TWO RULES seems to
be little trouble for any member. As for
donning red hats and purple, nearly all of
the women The Connection talked to said
that it takes them back to playing dress-up
with their mother’s clothes when they were
children. “Donning red and purple brings
out that extra zest,” says Grenier, who owns
nine red hats and two tiaras. Potter, who
prefers big, floppy hats reminiscent of My
Fair Lady, owns nearly a dozen—to complement a variety of activities and weather.
Guhl says that she and her group
decorate their own headwear, personalizing them by adding feathers, flowers and
veils. Potter jokes that a hat’s decoration
can include the kitchen sink—provided
the Red Hatter can get it to stay on.
The word “fun” tumbles effortlessly
into conversations. “Fabulous” and “
wonderful” pop up nearly as often, accompanied by that notion of sisterhood.
Mr. Toad ride at Disneyland?” she
continues. “That’s what happened
to my life. I was just going along and sud-
denly the track took this unexpected turn, all the concept of letting go and having fun, of
because of a red hat. It’s been very exciting, giving ourselves permission to play. Once
and I am ready for whatever is next.” that happens, change has already begun,
How has this unexpected, serendipitous however subtle or grand it may be.”
involvement with Red Hatters changed Despite the demands of an ever-grow-
Cooper personally? “I have been stretched ing business, Cooper says that her lifestyle
immeasurably. I am more self-confident than hasn’t really changed all that much. “Home
I have ever been,” she responds. “I have is home and work is work,” she says. “I
developed new aspects of myself. I know that have always been work oriented and driven.
the Red Hat Society is making a difference in It’s easy to tell others to kick up their heels;
women’s lives, and that’s of great value to now I remember to tell myself.”
me. The most important thing is that we grasp Following the tremendous success of The
MEMBER Red Hat Society: Fun and Friendship After
Fifty, Cooper received so many stories from
Red Hatters that a second book was born: The
Red Hat Society’s Laugh Lines: Stories of
Inspiration and Hattitude. In the book’s intro-
duction, Cooper writes, “We are many things
to many people—mothers, grandmothers,
daughters, and wives. We seek and enjoy new
experiences; we travel; we create; we have
adventures. So it is natural that we share sto-
ries concerning all of these things with others
with whom we feel connected. As we love to
say, ‘We are not done yet!’”
Potter recognizes the importance of
the Red Has Society in her life and how
it means she always has someone she
“can call on.”
From Red Hatters everywhere, the message is: Get together, put on your purple clothes
and your red hat, ride a carousel, have your toenails painted lime green, say no and don’t feel
guilty, run through the sprinklers in your purple
bathing suit or your birthday suit—just be
yourself and recapture what it felt like to be a
little girl, and a little bit irresponsible! C
“Barb [the chapter’s queen mother]
and I will probably be friends for the rest of
our lives,” adds Potter. “And we wouldn’t
have known each other without the society.”
Valerie Ryan wears her red hat while running
her bookstore in Cannon Beach, Oregon.
—Stephanie E. Ponder
Company name: Red Hat Society Inc.
Founder and Exalted Queen Mother:
Sue Ellen Cooper
Member at: Fullerton, California
Member since: 1993
Comments about Costco: “We opened
our first merchant account at Costco and
bought almost everything for our office there.
All the functional things like trays and tables
are still in use every day, and we shop there
frequently for business and personal needs.
We are big consumers of coffee and peanuts,
but our favorite treat is the pumpkin pie!”
Books at Costco: The Red Hat Society: Fun
and Friendship After Fifty and The Red Hat
Society’s Laugh Lines: Stories of Inspiration
and Hattitude are available at most warehouses
and at costco.com.