Small Town Hamptons shop owner Cindy Gillespie, left, and Jan Childs, ‘queen’ of the Kilmore Rubies and Pearls celebrating International Women’s Day.

KILMORE’S Red Hat Society chapter, the Rubies and Pearls, recognised International Women’s Day last week with a celebration of the town’s many women-owned and operated businesses.

Thirty-five Red Hat Society members from across Victoria gathered at Kilmore homewares, craft and gift shop Small Town Hamptons, owned by Cindy Gillespie and her daughter Rachel, to socialise over sparkling wine and scones, before lunch at Oddfellows Cafe, which is also owned by female business leader Kim Short.

Rubies and Pearls leader and self-proclaimed ‘queen’ Jan Childs wanted to bring Red Hatters together to shine a light on the women who navigated the pandemic while keeping businesses afloat.

“You can see the joy that these women are having mingling, talking to one another, browsing, buying [and] it promotes Cindy’s shop, particularly after COVID with everything being shut down,” she said.

Ms Gillespie opened her shop in early 2020 and was forced to close due lockdowns for much of the year.

“We only just opened three weeks prior to COVID and we always wanted to have a champagne night to welcome us into the town,” Ms Gillespie said.

“When I spoke to Jan about it [she] suggested to bring her ladies in.”

Ms Gillespie provided a door prize and refreshments for the occasion, so the only cost to the Red Hatters was anything they chose to buy.

Other female-owned businesses promoted on the day were clothing and jewellery store London Mart, bric-a-brac store Rustic Gold, Izzybelle clothing store and Booteek shoe store.

International Women’s Day was formerly known as International Working Women’s Day, and in the early 20th century was marked by demonstrations of women demanding the right to vote and protesting employment gender discrimination.

Although the Red Hats Society’s event was three days after International Women’s Day, Ms Childs considered it a celebration that was lacking in the area on March 8.

She also hoped that drawing women from across the state would promote Kilmore.

“Unfortunately Kilmore is just somewhere for the trucks to roar straight through and on the weekends the place is dead,” she said.

“Cindy would love to open seven days a week, but because nobody else opens, it would be pointless. There’s just no promotion of Kilmore done and so that is basically my aim.”

Now in its sixth year, Kilmore Rubies and Pearls has eight members, but is always open to more.

“We dress in purple, we wear our red hats, we wear our red shoes and we put on lots and lots of bling,” Ms Childs said.

“It’s for women who are over 50, so long as they want to have a good time, they’re absolutely welcome and we’d love to see more.”

For more information, contact Jan Childs on jedami238@outlook.com.