And Red Hat Society members definitely believe in having fun.
"It all started as a result of a few women deciding to greet middle age with humor," said Nancy Wymer, queen mother of The Flaming Dames chapter in Sikeston. "We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life and since we are all in it together, we join red-gloved hands and go for the gusto together."
Bootheel Babes Queen Mother Sandy Bickell agreed. "It's an organization for friends to get together and have fun," she said.
Although Bickell admitted that she has known some of her group members for several years, the Red Hat Society has helped their relationships grow. She added there is a mixture of all kinds of people in her group, including nurses, teachers, professionals and even bikers. "It makes it interesting," she laughed.
Even their titles are entertaining. The title queen mother is synonymous with president, members are known as princesses, and other offices are creatively named. For instance, the title hysterian takes the place of the traditional historian in several chapters, including The Flaming Dames.
The Red Hat Society was founded in the mid-1900's by Ellen Sue Cooper of California. It's beginnings are associated with the poem "Warning" by Jenny Joseph.
"When I am an old women I shall wear purple with a red hat that doesn't go and doesn't suit me," the poems reads.
Although the Red Hat Society Web site proudly describes themselves as a dis-organization, they do have a dress code. "You must attend function in full regalia," Wymer said. "A red hat and purple outfit for women 50 and over or a pink hat and lavender outfit for people who are younger."
These outfits seem to attract quite a bit of attention. "People look at you like 'what are you doing?'" Bickell laughed. Wymer added the women like to dress up and have fun, and that she has seen everything from purple boas to hats with plums on them.
She recalled one of their outings at a restaurant, where two men were giving them odd looks. When the men finally came over and asked about the meaning of the red hats and purple outfits, the women explained. "They got a kick out of it," Bickell said.
Wymer and Bickell agreed that their groups try to meet at least once a month, whether for dinner or some other activity. "Some of us have gone to convention in St. Louis and Branson, and some of us are going on a cruise together," Wymer said.
These activities and the people who organize them are decided by the individual chapters. Most chapters, however, divide into groups that take turns sponsoring the monthly gatherings.
"They are so creative," Bickell said. "I am really amazed with the stuff they come up with."
One of the Bootheel Babes' activities was an outing to Hunter Acres Caring Center. The members had tea with the group and at the end presented each of them with a red hat. "They were just tickled to death," Bickell said, adding that the group is planning on going back around Valentines Day.
According to the two Queen Mothers, the Red Hat Society is helping many woman look forward to their 50th birthdays. "A lot of them say 'I can't wait! I just turned 50, I've got to join,'" Wymer said. Her chapter does not have any pink hatters.
Bickell, on the other hand, has six pink hatters in her group. The youngest, 21, has quite a few years until she will 'graduate' to red hat status. However, three of the six will turn 50 this year. "I think they are excited," Bickell said.
There are five Red Hat Society chapters in Sikeston. At times, they will work on projects or have joint activities. Three chapters, The Cotton Pickin' Chicks, Bootheel Babes and The Flaming Dames are closed to new members at this time. Margaritaville Red Hat Society and Red Hatters Purple Majesties are still open to new members, however.
The three chapters are closed because they have over the recommended 20 members at this time. "The reason it is recommended to limit a chapter to 20 to 25 members is due to problems getting registrations," Wymer said.
Those interested in joining the Red Hat Society should visit the Web site at www.redhatsociety.com, then click on chapter search and search for their town. A list will generate, including chapter names, contact names and whether the chapter is full.
People can also form their own chapter. "Just log on and start you own group," Bickell said. Wymer added, "just go online, pick out a chapter name and get a few friends together that like to have fun and before long your membership will be full!"