Have you ever been walking around Waxahachie or Ellis County and seen a red hat bobbing in the crowd while you’re out running errands or having a meal? Chances are you have encountered a member of the Red Hat Society.

The Red Hat Society is an international group that was born in 1997 in Tucson, Arizona. When a friend of hers was nearing a “fiftyish” birthday, a woman by the name of Sue Ellen Cooper decided to give her friend a red hat inspired by the famous poem “Warning.” The opening lines of the poem read, “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”

Cooper used the hat and poem to encourage her friend to grow old playfully and not forget to have fun. Her action sparked a world-wide movement with women 50 years and older in 40,000 chapters donning red hats and “embracing a renewed outlook on life filled with fun and friendship, fulfilling lifelong dreams.”

The Waxahachie chapter, Happy Hearts, shared how the group has impacted them over a fun meeting and gift exchange at Campuzano’s on Sept. 3.

“Never met a more friendly or welcoming group of people,” commented one red hat.

In our fast-paced society, all of the members expressed how the group has helped them to remain connected and young in their maturing years, reminding them they’ve still “got it” in a society that pedestals youth.

They are a very diverse and inclusive group with current and former teachers, opera and jazz singers, accountants, nurses, civil servants and more. They always know they’ll be there for each other and get together every month on a volunteer rotation schedule set up by the leader of their club, Jane Ann Shipp, known as the Queen.

“She really keeps us together,” said their youngest society member, Vita Montoya.

The group does everything from hosting simple house parties, celebrating the holidays, to hitting the arena and taking each other out in an intense game of laser tag.

Montoya laughed. “Imagine! Us ladies out there playing laser tag!”

They also attend some of the larger Red Hat Society events, including a recent Red Hat Society cruise out of Galveston. The oldest member of the Waxahachie group is 82 and they have more than 25 members.

Most of them were red hats with a few pink hats in the mix for those who are 49 years or younger. While the cooperative Red Hat Society can lay claim to many achievements, including an award from the Pop Culture Association and American Culture Association in 2008, the Waxahachie chapter’s work includes mentoring Special Olympian Ahston Smith, with members saying they were excited to watch her compete in the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi this last March.

The goal is to always have fun when the Waxahachie Happy Hearts chapter of the Red Hat Society meets. In October, they are planning on having a pumpkin painting party.

If you want to join, contact Queen Jane Ann Shipp at 972-841-3746. The Waxahachie group is always accepting new members into their ranks. Whether you’d be a red hat or a pink hat, you are always welcome, they said.  

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