Red Hat Society: Saucy Sisters

Red Hat Society
Saucy Sisters
by Mary Ellen Mitchell

Have you been noticing a flurry of red and purple items in your favorite clothing store? Do you see red hats in the card shop and purple boas at the craft suppliers? Are you wondering why there is a sudden craze for bright colors? You are witnessing a cottage industry coming into full bloom and happily it is all to blame on the Red Hat Society.
The Red Hat Society got its start, seven year ago in Tucson, because of a birthday gift given by a woman named Sue Ellen to her friend, Linda. Sue Ellen had a flair for choosing unforgettable gifts. She gave Linda a vintage red hat and a copy of a poem with a line in it about growing older "wearing a red hat" with a purple dress. Soon, many of Sue Ellen's friends were getting similar gifts and one day they went out for tea, all gussied up in Technicolor and the "Red Hat Society" was born.
There are no meeting halls, no secret code language, but there is one rule to this group. And the rule is: there are no rules! According to the website, this is a "dis"organization of women, many 50 and over, who" believe that silliness is the comic 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." This is a national craze; so keep your eyes open and you will see Red Hat Society ladies in "full regalia".
You may wonder-what do red hats do? And why should I get all excited about some people in Arizona? Well, a quick check of www.redhatsociety.com will tell you that there are 20 chapters in Hagerstown alone. Surely, you have seen some of these women in your travels about in Washington County? What do they do? Well, have fun, of course!
Pat Saunders is the "Queen Momma" of the Red Hat Mountain Momma chapter. She and one hundred and fifty other women each take turns planning activities for the group to enjoy. These "FUNctions" have included bus trips and visiting the theatre as well as going to a Suns game, hosting a Red Hat bingo, birthday bashes and Christmas parties, luaus and even hitting it lucky at Foxwood Casino in Connecticut.
Who are these red hatters? All of the members are women and those 50 and over wear red hats and purple outfits along with a lust for life that rivals their fashions. The "ladies in waiting" or those under fifty, still may actively participate but must wear a pink hat with lavender clothing. As you might imagine, turning fifty isn't so bad to these ladies and making the color switch is called a "Red"uation!
One of the greatest rewards of becoming a Red Hat are the friends that you make along the way. You don't have to be invited to join a chapter by a member, you just join online. Current members suggest you find a group that plans activities that you find interesting. This is a great way to meet friends if you are new to the area or fill a need if you have experienced a change, such as the loss of a spouse or becoming an empty nester.
Margaret Cronauer of the "Rubies with Hat-titude" chapter likes the closeness of the twenty women in her group. Over the past two years they have enjoyed picnics, brunches, lunches and potluck suppers together. Wherever they go, the members wear "full regalia", meaning a red hat with a purple outfit. Some groups have a policy of "no men allowed", while others include husbands or significant others as fitting.
One of the perks of becoming a Red Hat member is the thrill of finding your outfit.
Pat Saunders says, "It is a bit like playing dress-up and feeling like a little girl again." One of her chapter members recently returned from a southern trip and to the envy of her friends, brought back shoes, socks, Capri pants, tank-tops and jewelry all decorated with red hats and purple clothing. Boas, hats, necklaces and more adorn these fearless females!
"We believe in reaching our mature years with humor, fun and friendship," says Margaret Crounauer. This self-depreciating humor is obvious when you hear the royal nickname each member chooses for herself. Your neighbor may be "the Duchess of Disaster" or "Lady Mischievous". The woman behind you in the checkout line, could be the "Madam of Mayhem" or the "Countess of Clutter". You must have seen the "Queen of the Mall" or the "Baroness of Bargains" by the clearance rack! (I bet you are thinking of what you would name yourself-aren't you?)
National conventions are becoming popular among the membership. My family and I saw 500 ladies in full regalia parading through Times Square in New York City last summer. We found out later that they were walking to the theatre to see "Menopause, the Musical." This June, gambling gals will be heading to Las Vegas for "The Big Deal" and in August these saucy sisters will enjoy the "Boston Tea Party".
If you would like to become a member or get a few friends together to start your own chapter, go to the internet and register at www.redhatsociety.com (If you don't have access to the internet or are not computer savvy, ask a teenager or your local librarian to help you.) Don't hesitate to ask someone dressed in red and purple if they belong to the society. Chances are they will fill you in on their chapter or refer you to another.
Perhaps the Red Hat philosophy can best be summed up by these words from founder, Sue Ellen Cooper, "Underneath the frivolity, we share a bond of affection, forged by common life experiences and a genuine enthusiasm for wherever life takes us next."