The Red Hat Society has a purpose for for ladies over 50.
Just have fun.
It was formed in California in 1998 and has grown into an internationally recognized women's group according to Joan Graves-Edwards of Anna, the "Queen Mother" for all of Southern Illinois. She is the head of the Little Egypt chapter of the Red Hats and is quick to tell you anything you want to know about her group.
The Little Egypt chapter of the Red Hats is over 100 strong and boasts a few members from as far north as Champaign and from other states like Missouri and Kentucky. There is even a member from Texas. As noted the group's purpose is to have fun and foster friendship among women over 50. The women communicate regularly over the Internet.
In November 1997, Sue Ellen Cooper of California presented her dear friend, Lynda Murphy, with a red hat and and a framed copy of the poem "Warning" written by Jenny Joseph for Lynda's 50th birthday. It begins "When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple with a red hat…"
The original idea was that Lynda might want to hang the hat and poem as a decorative reminder to loosen up as she got older. Friends expressed an interest in receiving an identical gift when they reached the age of 50.
In April 1998, Sue Ellen and four friends dressed in purple outfits and red hats and went out for tea. They had so much fun they dubbed themselves "The Red Hat Society" that very day. They decided to continue getting together for the purpose of nothing more than having a good time. Lynda told a friend of hers in Florida about the group and she started a similar one in her small town. It was fun being "sister chapters" but there were no plans to promote or expand the group until the summer of 2000 when both chapters were featured in a national home decor magazine.
A few months later a story in a local paper was picked up by a wire service and word spread like red and purple wildfire according to literature provided by Graves-Edwards.
Since then the society has grown by leaps and bounds. Five hundred new chapters are formed each week. The Red Hat Society is currently represented by more than 22,000 chapters in all 50 U.S. states and at least 20 other countries.
Wednesday the Little Egypt chapter met at Morello's Italian Restaurant in Harrisburg and celebrated Easter with hand-made hats worthy of a 5th Avenue Easter Parade.
They celebrate the joys of aging gracefully and playfully. Underlying the playfulness are a common bond of sincere friendship for each other.
What do they do?
Nothing is the answer.
They feel they have all been so dutiful, so "busy" for so long that they deserve a break. Red Hat meetings are a haven for silliness and unfettered happiness among women of a certain age.
There are no rules or bylaws of chapter organizations. Each chapter structures itself acceding to the wishes of its members. The founder of the chapter is referred to as the "Queen Mother."
Graves-Edwards said, "We have lost 15 members to cancer. We were their support group during their final days."
The luncheon was hosted by the local Red Hats for God chapter.