The Red Hat Society: Fun and Friendship After Fifty

by Sue Ellen Cooper

THE RED HAT SOCIETY is a book about fun, loads of it. Sue Ellen
Cooper, in her thirties, was inspired by a lyrical poem she read in
a used bookstore. Years later, she recalled the piece that
celebrated the aging process. Cooper searched for the perfect gift
for a dear friend about to celebrate her fifty-fifth birthday. A
framed copy of the poem, along with an outrageous red bowler,
matched her friend Linda's personality. The gift was an instant
hit. Soon, Cooper's entire list of friends benefited from like
remembrances. A tearoom excursion in 1998, captured on film by
Cooper's husband, was the first of many romps in hilarity for the
over-fifty girls. The embryonic Red Hat Society bloomed into a
sisterhood for like-minded lovers of foolishness.

THE RED HAT SOCIETY is the story of its mushrooming into viable
groups spread over the entire globe. A worldwide entity, The Red
Hat Society now meets annually, for a convention of mutual
fun-lovers. The rules are simple; there are none. The sole purpose
is to revolutionize the view of feminine aging in our society.
Cooper states that the society fulfills certain needs: "the need to
play, the desire to dress up, the need for connection with others
at the same stage of life, an appreciation for humor, visibility as
an active segment of society and the need for fellowship with other

The frisky official mascot of the society is Ruby Red-Hat, a
full-figured little lady, cleverly disguised as an adult. A
computer-generated icon, she is the embodiment of attributes and
attitudes that Red Hatters admire. Her Ten Rules for Living, plus
One, is the sole set of rules that Red Hatters accept. The book
examines each with several paragraphs of explanation. Additional
boxed quotations by authors and famous personages underscore
Cooper's strong feelings about life as a celebration.

THE RED HAT SOCIETY expands the roles of women to learn from their
past roles in living and to bring experiences from those pasts into
the present. Marriage, motherhood, caregiver, angel,
grandmotherhood, careers, volunteerism and sisterhood extend into
later years as the basis for renewed growth, if the sisterhood's
spirit so moves. Red Hatters have the option to take up worthy
causes or not. The book's middle chapters examine the process of
aging --- physical, mental and spiritual. Red Hatters assume the
task of enriching one another's lives as a worthy goal.

Cooper expresses the need for the society to remain true to its
origins. Men may observe the fun and frivolity their wives have and
desire to become part of it. But men are not admitted. Neither are
women under fifty. However, if these ladies form junior adjuncts to
the club, they are called Pink Hatters. They're relegated to
wearing paler shades of pink and lavender, to attain full red and
purple regalia upon reaching fifty.

During my reading of THE RED HAT SOCIETY, I dined at a local
restaurant with a few friends. A back door swung open from a
private dining salon. The parade of ladies wearing outlandish red
hats, colorful boas and deep purple clothing was an incredible
sight in the middle of an otherwise mundane afternoon. They exuded
the open, frivolous gaiety Cooper writes about in THE RED HAT
SOCIETY. I want to become one of these carefree creatures. You too
will love the story of The Red Hat Society's inception and

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 23, 2011

The Red Hat Society: Fun and Friendship After Fifty
by Sue Ellen Cooper

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2004
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Warner Books
  • ISBN-10: 0446679763
  • ISBN-13: 9780446679763