Red hats, big personalities

WHEN I grow up I want to be... Florence Slattery.

At 93 she is everything your average granny is not.

Stylishly groomed without a patch of fussy tweed in sight; full of fun and frivolity with a repertoire of naughty jokes and a quick laugh she is as bubbly as pricey champagne.

“Some people are old at 40, some people are young at 70, it's simply a matter of choice,” she explained.

The Rose City pianist, who founded the Red Hat Society in Australia, definitely fits the later category.

Today she is “Supreme Matriarch” to the nation's group for women aged 50-plus who celebrate fun and frivolous times wearing outlandish red hats and dressed top to toe in purple.

The concept centred on poet Jenny Joseph's famous work Warnings advocates growing old disgracefully.

“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple, with a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me... And run my stick along the public railings, And make up for the sobriety of my youth; I shall go out in my slippers in the rain, And pick flowers in other people's gardens.”

Mrs Slattery started the first Red Hat Society in Warwick in 2000 at the suggestion of an American friend.

Today the Australian organisation has 260 chapters and thousands of lipsticked, stiletto-wearing senior members snubbing traditional images of faded, grey grannies.

“Ours really is a sisterhood letting us relive our youth, empowering us and giving us confidence to really embrace life,” she explained.

“There is nothing I like more than seeing a woman wearing a red hat with a big smile on her face. It is a wonderful thing.”

For her kicking off the Red Hat Society was simply part of 'making a life for herself'.

“I was widowed and I just had to make a life for myself and be independent I didn't want to be a nuisance to my daughters,” Mrs Slattery said.

The Daily News caught up with the personable retiree on her return from the sisterhood's annual Girlfriends Giggle where this year 450 red hatters partied at the Sunshine Coast.

Her Rose City counterparts will willingly testify this spry grandmother remains the life of the party.

“Florence didn't join the conga line at the coast because her knee was playing up, but that didn't stop her tap dancing until midnight,” Fay Wickham explained.

At an age where others her generation may be tempted to slow down, Florence Slattery is considering anything but.

“Life is short, have fun, be happy and don't feel your age too much,” she said.

And she won't make apologies for the laughter or the raised eyebrows that generally accompany her Red Hat outings.

“Get a group of us together and it's like being at an Ingham chicken farm on a quiet day.”

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