Red Hat Society

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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 received national publicity in the year 2000 through the magazine Romantic Homes[3] and a feature in The Orange County Register.[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.[4]

The Red Hat Society membership increased through word of mouth, growing from two chapters in 1999 to over 70,000 members.

Thus DSA’s Red Hat Luncheon was formed for the purpose of social interaction and bonding among Deaf women – a society of women that connects, supports and encourages women in their pursuit of fun, friendship, freedom, fulfillment and fitness while supporting all in the quest to get the most out of life.