Dec 072003
Authors: Brittany Burke

Women wearing flamboyant red hats and deep purple clothing

thrive on having a good time and dismissing any negative thoughts

thrown their way.

“It’s really all about fun and not caring what other people

think,” said Nancy Wear, a red hatter from the Smashing Cranberries

chapter. “Something like wealth and stature doesn’t matter because

everyone is the same in this group.”

The Red Hat Society is composed of women, mostly over the age of

50, who just want to have fun. There are no rules except that at

all meetings members must wear a red hat and purple clothing.

The Red Hat Society is inspired by the poem “Warning” by Jenny

Joseph. The poem suggests a power to women as they age if they wear

purple and a red hat that “doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me,”

according to the poem.

Members under the age of 50 can still participate by wearing a

pink hat and lavender clothing.

Wear, 58, and other members of the Loveland chapter of the Red

Hat Society, mostly composed of educators, meet once a month to

“have fun.” The activities range from bowling to dinner, Wear


“Since we’ve all moved away it’s a way to keep connected and get

back together,” said Sandy Butler, another member of Smashing


Butler, 54, is also the director of Project Promise at CSU.

Project Promise helps give outgoing professionals a chance to make

a career through the education system by preparing them to be


“We want to be outrageous,” Butler said. “We’re going to have


Winnette Reck Payne, 80, founded the Les Rouges Chapeaux chapter

in February 2002.

“My niece lives in Washington and she sent me a newspaper

clipping about the Red Hat Society because I always wear a hat,”

Payne said. “I got on the Web site and we didn’t have a chapter in

Fort Collins so I sent in my $35.”

The Red Hat Society costs chapters $35 to join and $35 every

year after that.

At the first meeting at Olive Garden, 62 women showed up, Payne

said. Les Rouges Chapeaux has grown into more than 200 women.

“There is no official list since there are no official rules,”

Payne said. “Not everyone comes to every meeting but we tell each

and every one about them. It just keeps growing.”

Payne doesn’t like turning anyone away since the goal is to have


“I think there is a real need for kicking off your shoes and

having a good time,” Payne said. “I’m glad to be alive and


Sue Ellen Cooper, 59, started the Red Hat Society in 1998. Her

chapter has grown to 23 members and it still has their monthly

meetings. The society didn’t begin adding other chapters until July


“It’s an extremely gratifying feeling,” Cooper said. “It’s

really spread into a sisterhood and I’m glad to be a part of


Cooper now devotes all her time to the main office in Fullerton,

Calif. There are about 29 people working in the office, mostly red

and pink hatters but some men too.

“We are not anti-men,” Cooper said. “We are just pro-women.”

According to Cooper, the office fields hundreds of calls a day

and thousands of e-mails.

“We don’t want anyone to go unheard,” Cooper said. “But it takes

a lot of women power.”

The Red Hat Society has thousands of chapters across the United

States and chapters in other parts of the world, including the

United Kingdom and Australia according to

Cooper said the Red Hat Society is accepting members of many

different ages. Some women who have lost their mothers find

condolence by finding a “surrogate mother” through the group,

Cooper said.

“It’s more about women than age,” Cooper said. “It’s not

surprising to have women in their 40s or 30s. Our oldest member is


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