Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

"Warning" a Poem by Jenny Joseph Reminding us to Have Fun ! The


      Warning–a poem by Jenny Joseph–
             Reminding Us to Have Fun!

     Many posts ago, I believe I said I would show you a copy of the poem on which the Red Hat Society was founded.  “Warning”, by Jenny Joseph is not only a poem I love, I had found a copy, bought it and given it to my sister when she turned 50! It was much later that I learned that is exactly how the Red Hat Society got started!  A woman, now our national Queen Mother, Sue Cooper, also the founder of the Red Hat Society, gave her friend a copy of this poem when she turned fifty, along with a red hat to wear. The friend liked the gift so much, she decided to give it to some of her friends! Soon they had a group and decided to go to “tea” with their red hats and purple dresses on! The rest is history…the Red Hat Society is now an international organization of women!  It’s purpose is to remind women that with all of their responsibilities and volunteer work in life–that it is very important to remember to be happy throughout life–to play! Lots of us adults forget  that! But not the Red Hatters! 
      According to an article in Wikipedia:
” Joseph’s best known poem, “Warning”, was written in 1961 and is included in her 1974 collection Rose In the Afternoon and The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse. “Warning” was identified as the UK’s “most popular post-war poem” in a 1996 poll by the BBC. The second line was the inspiration for the Red Hat Society.[3]Her first book of poems, The Unlooked-for Season won a Gregory Award in 1960 and she won a Cholmondeley Award for her second collection, Rose in the Afternoon in 1974.  “

      Now I have a special presentation for you! As well as the actual words to the poem, I have discovered a video of Jenny Joseph herself reading her poem! As a red hatter myself, I have come to love this poem,and to get to hear the author herself read it, is quite a treat! 


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
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
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph
    If you want to purchase a beautiful version of this poem in a purple mat, or on a card perhaps, here is a website where you can do so. Elizabeth Lucas bought the license rights to the poem and has developed many products with the poem, or parts of the poem on them! It is such a fun gift! 
This is a quote from Elizabeth Lucas Designs:
“If you are looking for copies of the complete poem, we invite you to order cards and gifts from our on-line store. You’ll be glad you did!
Visit Elizabeth Lucas Designs Web Site   www.ElizabethLucasDesigns.com
“When I Am An Old Woman” is now available on Canvas Tote Bags and 100% cotton, purple or white tee shirts. You may order them at 1-800-535-8227. Sizes available are S, M, L, XL, XXL and XXXL.

©2001 Elizabeth Lucas Designs All Rights Reserved

Set Of Six Cut-Out Shaped Red Hat Acrylic Magnets Available At http://www.ElizabethLucasDesigns.com ©Elizabeth Lucas Designs 2003″

     In our chapter, we use this poem for many occasions–we read it when new members join our group, it is read when “pink hatters”, those younger than 50 years of age, “reduate” and turn 50! It is then their turn to wear the bold colors of red and purple and to come out and play with the “big girls”! LOL 
     In many parts of the country, red hat chapters actually have “spitting contests”!  The “traditions” encourage red hatters to spit by all simultaneously turning our heads to the right, then as we motion spitting, we say “patooey!”  We’re thinking about having a watermelon seed spitting contest next summer…now, how long has it been since you did that young lady?! Can you say…never! or since you were about 8 years old! 
    We are all about the fun! Its so often hard for professionals, for mothers, to get outside of themselves and play. Any woman can join a group, or start one of her own! You can check the national Red Hat website:  redhatsociety.com  where you can find chapter contacts in your area and see if they have room for new members. Our own chapter is usually open and flexible because so many people move away, but we do sometimes meet in people’s homes, usually  in restaurants or studios, etc. so we try to keep our group to around twenty members…much larger, and its hard to get into a restaurant, a theater, a jewelry making place, a scrap booking store, a pottery studio, a dance studio, some one’s home…just to mention some of the things we’ve done over the years! 
    Talking about fun, I’ll leave you with a picture of our group in our Oktoberfest best this year! We found these wonderful hats locally and what a hit they were, and what joy! The ladies in purple hats are “birthday girls” who must switch their colors around during their birthday month!  Instead of wearing a red or pink hat, and purple or lavender clothes, you will find them in the purple or lavender hats and red and pink outfits! You just have to laugh when you dress like this! And that’s what it’s all about! Hope you have a great day, and get some laughter and joy in there! Helen

The Royal Red Divas of  Youngsville, Wake Forest, Rolesville, Louisburg, Knightdale, Oxford and Raleigh
North Carolina!

Author: Helen Holshouser

Old enough to enjoy life, I am a Red Hatter, grandmother, gardener, and amateur genealogist. I am a retired clinical psychologist, master's level, who is disabled with heart disease, but having fun with family and friends. Married over 40 years, I have two grown daughters and three grandchildren. I have learned that grandchildren provide a joy one never knew existed---writing feeds my soul, gardening is therapy, and genealogy research makes me feel like a detective!

2 thoughts on “"Warning" a Poem by Jenny Joseph Reminding us to Have Fun ! The

  1. ❤ this! Have always liked the Poem, and the theory of the Red Hat Society! Thanks for sharing!


  2. Thank you so much Theresa, for reading and commenting! I'm glad to hear you've liked this poem also, but it doesn't surprise me as we have often found ourselves with similar likes! Hope you'll refer some friends to this blog! Love ya, Helen


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