The Poem That Started It All
by Jenny Joseph
When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple,
With a RED HAT which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me,
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old and start to wear purple.
The Red Hat Society started accidentally in California in 1998. Sue-Ellen Cooper had read the 'Warning' poem by Jenny Joseph and thought it would be fun to buy a red hat from a charity shop to present to a friend as a 50th birthday gift. Before long all her friends turning 50 were asking if they too could have a red hat.
Soon this small group of ladies decided to hit the town in their red hats and assorted purple clothing and they went out for a tea party. The local newspaper picked up the story and other women began setting up their own 'red hat' groups.
Once the story hit the national television screens in the United States the idea spread like wildfire, and soon more and more groups, or chapters as they would come to be known, started to spring up throughout America, then Canada, and soon to Australasia, and countries throughout Europe.
Now there are thousands of women all over the world in this sisterhood, instantly recognisable to each other because of their distinctive red and purple clothing.
The Red ExpHat Society was the brainchild of Sue Denny, who was keen to meet new friends when she arrived in Domfront in 2004. Sue heard about the Red Hat Society when she met an American Red Hatter on a cruise. She joined as an individual member at first and felt it would be the perfect way to meet like-minded friends when she moved to her new home in Normandy.
The chapter began with just a few members but has gone from strength to strength ever since. Around 40 ladies have come and gone, many moving back to the UK.. Nowadays the Red ExpHat Society boasts some 20 members, where the line has been drawn and new members join by invitation only. The chapter meets for lunch once a month and has recently started a book club, which also meets monthly. Members also host events at their homes ocasionally.
WHO'S WHO IN THE RED EXP-HAT SOCIETY
Sue Denny La Reine de Domfront
contact at [email protected]
Sylvia Faux Vice Queen of Toasts
Hilary Schaper Vice Queen of Vice
Wendy Channing Queen of Books
Dorothy Myers Queen Mother
A Disorganisation of Women
The Red Exp-Hat Society prides itself on being a very relaxed group, running happily without a rule book, committee meetings or membership fees.
However, to enter into the true spirit of Red Hatting every member is expected to:
Wear a Red Hat
Wear Purple Clothing
whenever we are out in public or gathered as a group.
That is the one and only rule!
The chapter's activities are based within a 20km radius of Domfront. We try to eat at restaurants in different towns within the area throughout the year. Ladies who live further afield and still want to join, it is on the understanding that they are prepared to travel.
We do not do 'good works' but we do help and support fellow members in any way we can.
The chapter is closed to new members at the moment, but members do occasionally bring along a friend to meetings when we have room. We do not want to get so large that we have to sit at different tables when we go to restaurants, so we feel that the number we have at the moment is manageable.
If anyone is interested in setting up their own chapter in the area, Sue will be delighted to help in any way she can.