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Queen Mother
Margaret Webb
    Smiles from
    the West
    to the World!
started the second Red Hat Society chapter in Texas, the first in Lubbock.
started the second Red Hat Society chapter in Texas, the first in Lubbock.

MBY: Tell a little about your background and family.

MW: I have a daughter, Rhonda. She’s my only child. She has a daughter and son—Christina and Christopher.
Christina has three children—a girl and two boys—Alyssa, James and Jacob.

MBY: You grew up in West Texas, right?

MW: I was born in Big Spring. When I was eleven we moved to Sweetwater. That’s where I finished high school.

MBY: What were you involved with in school?

MW: I was a cheerleader. I did some acting. I loved doing plays and costumes.

MBY: Hmmm….some things never change. What else?

MW: I was on the annual staff and worked on the school newspaper.

MBY: What happened next?

MW: I got married and we moved to Kansas, then eventually came
back to Texas and settled in Lubbock. That’s where I did my college

MBY: Where?

MW: South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, just thirty-some miles
from Lubbock.

MBY: Tell about your husband.

MW: Bill Webb. He worked in the banking industry, very respected.
He passed away five years ago.

MBY: So sorry to hear that.

MW: We are never ready for something like that to happen, are we?

MBY: But you survived. In fact, you’ve not only made it through this difficult time, but you’ve found a way to pour
yourself into a number of great causes.

The Road to Red Hatting
MW: I’ve always been active in church and social activities. It’s one way of meeting great people and giving back
whatever you’ve been blessed with to others.

MBY: What is it that prepared you for founding the first Red Hat Society Chapter in Lubbock—one of the first in

MW: I remember something as far back as when I was a youngster in Sunday School in Big Spring. My other
brother and I were both in the same class at church, and our teacher told my mother that we were the greeters. It
wasn’t an elected office or anything, but as she told my mother, every time that any one new came into the class,
we would just naturally go and shake the person’s hand and welcome them. We weren’t told to do this, but I guess
we had both just picked it up from seeing our parents and other adults do something similar. I’m saying that to
mention that it seems like I have been in that role most of my life.

MBY: Before we talk about that role in getting the Red Hatter movement going in West Texas, let’s talk about
another great cause in which you’ve been active—the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra.

MW: It’s a true passion. I’ve always loved music of all kinds. The symphony was founded back in 1946, and it has
become a very important part of the cultural fabric of the entire South Plains Region. It has become a strong,
financially-stable, professional orchestra with nationally-known guest conductors and talented musicians that truly
touches so many people of all ages and different musical backgrounds throughout the area.

MBY: What all did you do with the symphony?

MW: I was on the Board of Directors and the Executive Board, then I was Hospitality Chairperson for ten years.

MBY: Hospitality seems to be a word that applies to everything you do. What did this position mean in relation to
the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra?

MW: Welcoming, hosting, and entertaining the guest artists when they came into town—making sure they were at
rehearsals and dinners and wherever they were supposed to be at any given time. I literally was with these artists
from the time they hit Lubbock until they the moment they left.

MBY: That had to be exhausting…

MW: It was, but what a rich and rewarding time as well.

A New Purpose
MBY: What a great preparation for getting involved in Red Hatting.

MW: It was wonderful preparation, but probably one of the big things that helped me later on was my years with
the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce. I got to experience what went on in Lubbock and what we really had to offer
here. That’s when I truly realized that I wanted to be involved in something that would benefit women my age, as
well as the community.

MBY: Enter the idea for the Red Hatters, right?

MW: Actually, at that time, the Red Hat Society didn’t exist. I even had a name chosen for this group that I thought
might work, yet not knowing where it was going to lead.

MBY: A name already?

MW: Yes. Then as time progressed, I picked up a copy of
Romantic Homes Magazine and read an article about
the Red Hat Society. It was the first I had ever heard about the Red Hatters. I thought, “This is it!”

MBY: A major light bulb moment?

MW: It really was. I suddenly thought, “This is what I’ve been preparing to do my whole life.”

MBY: What was so momentous about the article?

MW: Like I said, it talked about the Red Hat Society, a social organization founded during 1998 in California for
women 50 and beyond. It spoke about the founder of the Society, Sue Ellen Cooper, how in 1997 she gave a
friend named Linda Murphy a 55th birthday gift consisting of a red fedora purchased a year earlier at a thrift store
along with a copy of the now-famous Jenny Joseph's poem "Warning."

MBY: That’s where the red and purple started, right?

MW: Yes. The opening lines of that poem read:
    “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
    With a red hat that doesn't go and doesn't suit me…”

MBY: How did that poem lead to the Red Hat Society?

MW: Sue Ellen repeated that delightful gift several times, and eventually she and several of her friends bought
purple outfits and held a tea party.

MBY: Who would have thought that such a simple gift would eventually ignite an international phenomenon?

MW: Absolutely. Then and now, the Red Hat Society’s primary purpose not to be a sorority or a service club. Sue
Ellen and the other women just came together to have fun, friendship, freedom and fulfillment. It’s as simple as

MBY: And to wear red hats?

MW: Definitely to wear red hats!

Contact with California
MBY: What happened next?

MW: Well, I contacted the editor of the magazine. Sue Ellen’s name was mentioned, but there was no contact
information listed in the article. Through the editor I got Sue Ellen’s email address and emailed her.

MBY: What did you write?

MW: In the article it stated that her fondest dream was to proliferate these chapters far and wide. In my email I
simply asked how to get a chapter started. She replied and told me how to do it. In a month’s time, the Lubbock
chapter became the second in the state of Texas. Twenty-two ladies came to our first meeting.

MBY: You are known as the Lubbock Red Hats now. Was that your chapter’s name in the beginning?

MW: At first we were called “The Select Few.” When we quickly reached 200 members, I decided that the title
didn’t exactly fit.

MBY: How were you able to work it out to have the "Exalted Queen Mother" to come to Lubbock?

MW: We were the second place that Sue Ellen visited when she first started going around to the different

MBY: That had to be an exciting time.

MW: Oh, yes! We held it at the Lubbock Civic Center. In 2002, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal put on an annual
event called, “A Time for Women!” They asked us to help host it, offering time for a workshop and a booth. So I
called Sue Ellen and said, “My chapter membership is starting to explode.” Then I explained to her what was
going on and about the newspaper event. She asked, “My I come there for it?” I just about fainted. I couldn’t
imagine anything like that.

MBY: How did it go?

MW: She was here two nights and three days. She and I did a workshop called, “Just for Today, Come Learn to
Play!” The attendance was phenomenal. People came in from all over the place as far away as New Mexico and
places around Texas—Dallas, Amarillo, and so forth. They all wanted to meet Sue Ellen. And we had lots of new
members that joined our Lubbock chapter, as well.

MBY: That to be exciting.

MW: It was such a great experience.

Red Hat Highlights
MBY: So, let’s skip forward from that time. So much has happened since those early years. Other than the
Exalted Queen Mother’s visit, what have been some other highlights?

MW: Sue Ellen asked me to come to the first-ever Red Hat Society convention. It was in Chicago.

MBY: What year?

MW: I believe it was 2003.

MBY: What did that involved?

MW: I was to lead the Queens Council. Everything was such uncharted territory at that time, and I had no idea
what I was going to do. I called her and asked for ideas. She said, “Just tell us what your chapter in Lubbock does
because you are a pacesetter.”

MBY: What did she mean?

MW: Well, we had already done quite a few activities out in the community.

MBY: So that’s what you shared?

MW: I did. After I described what all we did in the South Plains area, then some of the other Queens came up and
shared some of the things they were doing to get the word out. It was one of the most memorable things I’ve done.

MBY: As the Red Hatter concept began spreading, were you contacted by others who wanted to do what you had
done in their own communities?

MW: Oh, yes. I spent lots of time going to the other chapters and seeing the programs they put on and what they
were doing. That’s really how the momentum kept going, because we all learned from each other. I loved getting
ideas from other Queen Mothers and bringing them back to see how these concepts would work for us. It was so
exciting to see everything growing and expanding.

MBY: Anyone who sees Red Hatters today knows without a doubt that the chapters are hardly cookie cutter
groups. There is so much variety, not just from chapter to chapter, but also within the chapters.

MW: One of the things that I noticed very early that the most successful Queen Mothers were able to take good
ideas and apply them specifically for their areas. What we did in the Lubbock area didn’t always work for the girls
in the Dallas area. They have a greater variety of places to go than us, so we had to be very creative in putting
together outings and so forth. The gals in Louisiana found it easy put together such things as boat cruises and
Mardi Gras-type events, while that would involve quite a bit of travel for us. But there were lots of things that we
could do that didn’t always work as well for them. As time progressed, we all learned from each other. It was
amazing to see how each Queen Mother and chapter adapted the good ideas to their areas. That has continued
to be one of the strongest building blocks for the entire Red Hat Society.

MBY: What great friendships you must have formed?

MW: That has been the highlight—to go around to other chapters and meeting the other ladies, getting to visit
with the Queen Mothers, and to see what all they do to make things work well where they are.

    The Red Hat Garden
    MBY: Tell about the Red Hat Garden in Lubbock that continues to get so much attention.

    MW: Back in 2002, the manager of the Texas Tech University Horticultural Center was on
    my queens court and came to me with an idea for planting a garden in the shape of a red
    hat as a community project. Everyone thought it was such a wonderful idea and jumped
    right in to getting the flower bed ready and planting it. Each lady planted at least one plant
    in the garden.

    MBY: And tell about the dedication.

    MW. That was very touching. When we had the presentation with the media and
    dignitaries there, they dedicated it to me. I was overwhelmed.

MBY: What happened to spread the idea to other Red Hat chapters?

MW: The year after we first planted the Red Hat Garden, we went to Austin for the state convention. There were
people there from the national office and a number of other states, as well. People had already started hearing
about the garden, so we decided to take clippings from our flower garden and handed them out to women at the
convention, encouraging them to start their own gardens.

MBY: Did you hear back from them?

MW: Yes. We heard from others in California and other states, as well as throughout Texas, from ladies who
planted the clippings and how they truly liked the idea.

Speaking of nice things coming from California, Margaret shares the heartwarming letter that she
received from Sue Ellen when she entered a major pageant:

Encouraging Others
MBY: After all you have seen, what would you recommend to a lady in an area where either the chapters are full or
where there is no chapter?

MW: Start her own!

MBY: How?

MW: Go to There are great instructions on how to start your own chapter. The information is

MBY: After the decade of Red Hatting that you have experienced, what excites you today and keeps you doing it?

MW: When you see the new members coming in and their excitement as they discover for the first time what the
whole idea of Red Hatters is about, that’s what continues to make it all worthwhile.

MBY: Describe what you mean about the excitement of new members?

MW: I see them, just like I was when I first got started (and continue to be), they can’t wait to go to the next get-
together and get more involved.

MBY: What makes it so different and exciting? It has to be more than the red hats, purple clothes and bling.

MW: It’s because you are allowed to be you. Your personality can show. You get to bond with others who are as
excited about having fun and friendship. And I think that the new people coming in keeps those of us who have
been around for awhile to stay motivated and thrilled to be part of this wonderful movement.

MBY: You never get tired of it?

MW: Oh, just like anything in life, there are ebbs and flows for everyone, but I try to get my ladies out in the
community whenever there is any kind of new exhibit that’s coming in or anything of interest—health issues, civic
affairs, nostalgia, exciting things happening—that can allow us more knowledge and the opportunity to
experience the camaraderie of being with the other ladies. And, of course, there’s always the fun of going to new
venues together—restaurants, get-togethers, events—in the city and region. It is still very exciting to me, and I am
so proud to be part of what the Red Hat Society is doing all over the world!

A Spreading Circle of Smiles
MBY: Speaking of fun and get-togethers, what’s with the kazoos?

MW: The fun thing is that when we are out in public, we are often celebrating some lady’s birthday. You’ve got all
these women dressed to the nines. It’s all elegant, then all of a sudden we all pull out these crazy kazoos, which
sounds like a hive of bees, and start buzzing “Happy Birthday.” There’s just no way the people all around us can
keep from having a good time, too! It totally destroys them, and they are laughing so hard.

MBY: One final question that builds on that thought: What generally happens when people see a big group of Red
Hatters all dressed up in the red, purple, and tons of bling-bling?

MW: When you are in a restaurant or parade or whatever, the colors pull people toward you. It can’t help but draw
attention. People around hear the laughter that always seems to be wherever Red Hat ladies are. People always
ask questions. Now, of course, most people know who the Red Hatters are, but they don’t always know what all
we do. What they do see is that not only do we have a great time with it, but others around us can’t help but have
a good time, too! It’s too contagious. They all have smiles on their faces. If we can do that and bring happiness
wherever we go, that’s what it’s all about!

The great nineteenth century American author and essayist Washington Irving once wrote, "A kind
heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles." He could have
been writing about Lubbock's Founding Queen Mother. Her "fountain of gladness" continues to
spread happiness and joy around the world!
(Above) Red Hat Society's
Founding Queen Mother
Sue Ellen Cooper
(Below) The Original
Six...Sue Ellen and her
Founding Royal Court
Texas Royalty...
Queen Mother Margaret Webb and the
Lubbock Red Hats Royal Court
Some things
never change:
"I was a cheerleader.
I did some acting.
I loved doing plays
and costumes."
The Queen Mother
and her Royal Court
Gorgeous Gertie,
the Lubbock Red Hats
"It was the first I
I thought, 'This is it!'”
Queen Margaret and Lubbock Red Hats (and up-and-coming Pink Hatters)...bringing pizzazz and bling to a new product unveiling!
"You are allowed
to be you! Your
personality can
Another hit in the community,
The Red Hats Cookbook
Dear Queen Margaret,

Greetings and felicitations to you upon your current representation of the Red Hat Society
in the Ms. Senior America Pageant! You have been an invaluable asset to our
"disorganization" from the moment you joined forces with us one year ago. Your wit, your
beauty, and your creativity, all of which you have shared freely, have helped us to grow
and flourish in the Lone Star State far beyond our wildest dreams! You have a wonderful
way about you and you draw others to yourself. You know how to have fun and
demonstrate that knowledge. This draws other around you to follow you and to learn how
to play and make the most of life.

I am very proud to have you as an illustrious Queen of the Red Hat Society. Best wishes in
this competition from all of us here in California. We are 100% behind you!

                                                                                    Sue Ellen Cooper
                                                                                    Exalted Queen Mother
                                                                                    Red Hat Society
ESPECIALLY FOR RED HATTERS is a feature of While we support and encourage participation
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