This is an ethnographic study of aging women in the Red Hat Society. My study looks at the social networks and behaviors of these women through a series of interviews with eight women from two different Red Hat Society groups. The participants are primarily white, working to middle-class, rural, Ohio women between the ages of 50-65 years. I use literature from Valerie Fennell's (1981) study of older women's social organizations in a southern United States town to support my study, as well as previous studies on the Red Hat Society such as Marybeth Stalp's (2009) "Conspicuously Consuming: The Red Hat Society and Midlife Women's Identity" and Susan L. Hutchinson's (2008) "Beyond Fun and Friendship: The Red Hat Society as a Coping Resource for Older Women." I also give an overview on the study of gerontology in order to understand the study of aging individuals. I employ a Durkheimian theoretical approach to my study to better understand how the individual behaves within their Red Hat Society group. I also use Marcuse's theory of aesthetics and play to explain dress in the Red Hat Society. I discuss three recurring themes within my interviews: the importance of fictive kin, how a group mentality affects the individual within a group, and how the practice of age-grading socially segregates RHS members from friends outside of RHS. In my final chapter, I explain the importance of ethnographic studies with aging populations within the discipline of anthropology and explore how the hypotheses that I made throughout my literature review and theory chapter compare with the data I collected. I also explore the importance of my study of RHS as it relates to the discipline of anthropology; for example, the importance of studying how RHS members influence modern society's beliefs about aging individuals.


Craven, Christa


Sociology and Anthropology; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies



Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2010 Victoria N. Early