Sunday, July 25, 2010
The Red Hat Society (RHS) is a social organization founded in 1998 for women approaching the age of 50 and beyond. As of July 2009, there are over 70,000 registered members and almost 24,000 chapters in the United States and 25 other countries. The Red Hat Society is the largest women’s social group in the world.
The founder of the Society is artist Sue Ellen Cooper, who lives in Fullerton, California. In 1997, Cooper gave a friend a 55th birthday gift consisting of a red fedora purchased a year earlier at a thrift store along with a copy of Jenny Joseph's poem "Warning." The opening lines of the poem read:
“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn't go and doesn't suit me."
Cooper repeated the gift on request several times, and eventually several of the women bought purple outfits and held a tea party. Cooper never set out to ignite an international phenomenon. However, after spreading by word of mouth, the Society first received national publicity in 2000 through the magazine Romantic Homes and a feature in The Orange County Register. 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.