Hats and Laughs: The Red Hat Society Takes Over San Francisco


The ladies of the Red Hat Society were in town this past weekend, painting the town – you guessed it – red.

More than 1,200 red hatters from all over the world converged on San Francisco for their annual convention, the Golden Gate Gala, which drew big names such as Gladys Knight and Dana Carvey. Famed Detroit milliner Luke Song – who shot to fame after making the hat Aretha Franklin wore to President Obama's inauguration – and Kentucky Derby milliner Judy Sharpe also made a splash with their latest headgear.

The organization is the world’s largest women’s social network, with chapters run by “queens” with fun royal titles in 30 countries with 50,000 members. “Our mission is all about fun and friendship for women over 50 (“red hatters”) and also for those under 50 (“pink hatters”)," said event spokesperson Bella Lagmay-Funk (also known as the “Purple Princess of PR”).

The Red Hat Society has its own musical, several best-selling books, a huge online store and at one time it even had its own Platinum Master Card. Founded in 1998 in Fullerton, California, by Sue Ellen Cooper (“Exalted Queen Mother”), the grassroots group began when Cooper gave a thrift store red hat to her girlfriend Linda Murphy.

“She gave Linda a poem about turning 50 and deserving to do whatever she wanted – like wearing red and purple even though it didn’t match,” Lagmay-Funk said. “After a lifetime of taking care of others, it was now her time – she was giving herself permission to play.”

Red hatters grow old by doing things together: tea parties, birthdays, cruises, parades or simply going to the movies. Today, the sisterhood continues to live up to their founder’s ideals – greeting middle-age with verve, humor and, most important, fun.

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