When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
-from the poem, WARNING, by Jenny Joseph
Penned in 1961 by English poet Jenny Joseph, the first lines of Warning sparked the birth of a sorority of women over the age of 50, known as The Red Hat Society.
Baby Boomers have embraced the poem’s message of non-conformity (although how many women have learned to spit, I’m not sure), which is more an anthem, confirming what adults are capable of doing – particularly women of a certain age.
Five decades have passed since the poem’s introduction, which means that babies born the year of its debut are now eligible for membership in The Red Hat Society. But the society itself began in 1998, the brainchild of Sue Ellen Cooper, who encouraged women to briefly “set aside their responsibilities and obligations in the pursuit of fun and friendship.”
As many of the best ideas do, The Red Hat Society began as a visit between friends. Sue Ellen Cooper bought a red fedora at a thrift shop on a whim. A few years later, she stumbled across Joseph’s poem and decided to gift her lifelong friend, Linda Murphy, with a red hat and a copy of Warning.
The gift combination became a tradition, with Murphy and Cooper giving red hats and copies of the poem to several more friends, until they realized they had started a sisterhood of sorts, and decided to wear their red hats with purple clothing (which, according to the poem, does not go) out to tea.
After that first tea, the “founding members” continued to invite friends whom they thought would appreciate the camaraderie, which included a friend who started a group of her own in Florida.
In its first five years, the Society grew from a small gathering of women, to a worldwide organization with 40,000 chapters, and the Red Hats realized they were more than simply a social organization; they sought to define their mission and purpose.
“For the first time in the modern world, there was an organization committed to helping women who had lost a spouse or a parent, or were, perhaps, dealing with major life-threatening illnesses,” states the organization’s website, www.redhatsociety.com.
Today, the Society has its own website, hosts conventions (to date, there have been three “official” conventions), and a line of merchandise. But the biggest success is the recognition of the accomplishments by and possibilities for women over age the age of 50.
“We have created… a legacy of fun, friendship, freedom to express ourselves, and a dedication to the fulfillment of our lifelong dreams,” the site reads.
Bringing together individuals with similar interests and life-stage experiences is how the Red Hat Society has become associated with success, optimism and empowerment, worldwide. Companies and organizations recognize the opportunities that come from partnerships with the Red Hat Society, and the buying potential associated with being endorsed by the Society and its members.
Catering to men and women of a certain age also is the success behind Windsong Properties. Each community, and home within that community, is designed with the needs and desires of the Active Adult in mind – from walkable streets with sidewalks that encourage neighborliness, to community clubhouses that encourage social gatherings (including Red Hat Society meetings) and fitness; flexible spaces within each home to cater to changing needs and decorating choices; and proximity to shopping, dining and healthcare destinations that allow homeowners to enjoy independence and peace of mind.
Welcome home to Windsong – Where Life’s A Breeze!