Red Hats Society members converge on W-S

The Best Western Plus was a sea of purple and red when the Red Hats held their North Carolina “fun-vention” Nov. 9-11 in Winston-Salem.

Red Hats Society members converge on W-S
November 15
09:03 2018

By Judie Holcomb-Pack

The Best Western Plus was a sea of purple and red when the Red Hats held their North Carolina “fun-vention” Nov. 9-11 in Winston-Salem. Beginning with a welcome from Mayor Allen Joines and the reading of a proclamation naming Nov. 9 as Red Hats Society Day in Winston-Salem, the weekend was filled with activities including a Harlem Nights dinner, Family Feud game and a Masquerade party on Saturday, and ending with a “Bra Brunch” on Sunday morning.

The Red Hats Society, an international social organization for women age 50 and over, celebrated their 20th anniversary in April 2018. The idea for the organization was the brainchild of Sue Ellen Cooper from Fullerton, California, when she gave a red hat to a friend for her 55th birthday. She was inspired by a poem by Jenny Joseph that begins: “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.” Twenty years and 30 countries later, the society boasts nearly 40,000 members.

Pearline Howard, queen of the Ladies of Distinction and host chapter, said that the convention had to be moved to this weekend when Hurricane Florence affected the ability of many members to attend on the original date. Over 125 Red Hatters from N.C., S.C., Maryland, D.C., Florida, Alabama and Connecticut attended, including special guest CEO Debra Lee Granich from “hat-quarters” in Fullerton, California.

The Red Hat Society is a family-owned for-profit business.

Speaking to the group prior to dinner on Friday, Granich said that facing the challenge of changing the event’s date and plans is a perfect example of what Red Hatters do: “When life gives you lemons, you make lemon meringue pie.” 

Speaking about the mission of Red Hats, Granich said that members are “helping each other through the aging process.” She continued, “It is a different world now [than when the society started] and we are out to be a leader of change, not a follower of change.” One goal of the staff at headquarters is embracing and teaching members about technology, such as the new Red Hats app. She noted that the reputation of Red Hats is well known and related a story of meeting a man on the plane as she was coming to North Carolina. He asked her if she was a member of Red Hats. When she said she was the CEO, he said, “I want to thank you for bringing joy to so many people’s lives.”

Pearline Howard said that the Ladies of Distinction, which was started by Josephine Jones on Jan. 5, 2000, with 14 ladies, has grown to 35 members. It is obvious that they enjoy having a good time and planning outrageous activities, such as the “Bra Breakfast,” where attendees decorate their hats to carry out the theme.

Not only were local and N.C. chapters represented at the convention, but many women traveled from out of state to attend. Jeanette Elsea came from Wolcott, Connecticut, where she is in the Ladies in Red chapter. She said she came to the convention last year and had so much fun that she had to come back this year.

Ambassador Queen Margaret Forney is with Classy Ebony Bells of Lenoir. She said that she had just lost her husband when she met a woman in a store who was shopping for a red hat. She told her about the Red Hats and Forney immediately went home and looked up Red Hats online. She started her own chapter in 2004 and it now has 14 members. She said, “It has been a tremendous experience to be in Red Hats.”

According to their website, the Red Hat Society is “a playgroup for women created to connect like-minded women, make new friends and enrich lives through the power of fun and friendship.”

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