Gold Star Mothers

During World War I families with men in the service displayed banners with blue stars in the center. The number of blue stars indicated the number of family members in the service. As soldiers were killed their families superimposed a gold star over the blue star. The gold star symbolized the honor and glory accorded the serviceman for his supreme sacrifice in giving the last full measure of devotion to his country. It replaced a lonely personal loss with a proud public symbol for the family. Many families paid a high price for freedom, thus they hung more than one gold star in their window.

In the months before the end of World War I President Woodrow Wilson was given a suggestion by the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defense that, instead of wearing conventional mourning of black, American women should were a black band on their left arm embossed with a gold star for each family member who had made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the nation. The term Gold Star Mothers was applied to any mother whose son(s) died in the World War.

On June 4, 1928 Grace Darling Seibold of Washington D.C. founded The American Gold Stars Mothers, Inc. as a way to remember her own son and all of the men who died in the war, and to perpetuate the ideals for which they had fought and died. The organization remains a nondenominal, non-profit and nonpolitical organization.

American Gold Star Mothers, Inc is an organization of mothers whose sons or daughters have made the supreme sacrifice while in any branch of the Military or Naval Service of the United States of America, or died as a result of such service.

The Purposes of the Gold Star Mothers

1. Keep alive and develop the spirit that promoted world services.

2. Maintain the ties of fellowship born of that service, and to assist and further all patriotic work.

3. Inculcate a sense of individual obligation to community, State and Nation.

4. Assist veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam and other strategic areas and their dependents in the presentation of claims to the Veteran’s Administration, and to aid in any way in their power the men and women who served and died or were wounded or incapacitated during hostilities.

5. Perpetuate the memory of those whose lives were sacrificed in our wars.

6. Maintain true allegiance to the United States of America.

7. Inculcate lessons of patriotism and love of country in the communities in which we live.

8. Inspire respect for the Stars and Stripes in the youth of America.

9. Extend needful assistance to all Gold Star Mothers and, when possible, to their descendents.

10. To promote peace and good will for the United States and all other Nations.

Source-American Gold Star Mothers

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Proclamation by the President of the United States

Whereas the preamble to Public Resolution 123, 74th Congress, approved June 23, 1936 (40 Stat. 1895), recites:

Whereas the service rendered the United States by the American mother is the greatest source of the Country’s strength and inspiration; and "Whereas we honor ourselves and the mothers of America when we revere and give emphasis to the home as the fountainhead of the State; and

"Whereas the American mother is doing so much for the home and for the moral and spiritual uplift of the people of the United States and hence so much for good government and humanity; and

"Whereas the American Gold Star Mothers suffered the supreme sacrifice of motherhood in the loss of their sons and daughters in World Wars"

and Whereas the said Public Resolution 12 provides:

"That the President of the United States is hereby authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the Government officials to display the United States flag on all Government buildings, and the people of the United States to display the flag and to hold appropriate meetings in their homes, churches, or other suitable places, on the last Sunday in September, as public expression of the love, sorrow and reverence of the people of the United States for the American Gold Star Mothers."

"Sec. 2. That the last Sunday in September shall hereafter be designated and known as "Gold Star Mother’s Day," and it shall be the duty of the President to request its observance as provided for in this resolution."

Gold Star Mother's Day 2004

Presidential Press Releases


Gold Star Mother's Day, 2004
September 25, 2004
A Proclamation

By the President of the United States of America Americans have always answered the call to serve our Nation. Many brave American men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend freedom's blessings, and no one feels their loss more deeply than their mothers. On Gold Star Mother's Day, we remember these mothers who have suffered the loss of a son or daughter through service to our country. We honor their courage and perseverance and the memory of their children.

Across our Nation, these compassionate and generous women are volunteering to serve veterans, helping families of service members, supporting educational programs that promote patriotism and citizenship, and turning their grief into action. They inspire all Americans with their compassion and service. On this day, people across America join together to honor our Gold Star mothers and send our gratitude, prayers, and best wishes to them and to their families.

The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 115 of June 23, 1936 (49 Stat. 1895 as amended), has designated the last Sunday in September as "Gold Star Mother's Day," and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this day.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Sunday, September 26, 2004, as Gold Star Mother's Day. I call upon all Government officials to display the flag of the United States over Government buildings on this solemn day. I also encourage the American people to display the flag and hold appropriate meetings in their homes, places of worship, or other suitable places as a public expression of the sympathy and respect that our Nation holds for our Gold Star Mothers.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-ninth.


Presidential Press Releases - Index

History Of Gold Star Mothers' Pilgrimages

By John W. Graham
Co-Producer of Gold Star Mothers: Pilgrimage of Remembrance

In the aftermath of World War I, Americans had an unprecedented question to answer. How do you remember and honor those who have died overseas in war? The United States lost more than 100,000 troops in the war, and most were buried in makeshift graves overseas. The War Department gave the next-of-kin a choice: bring the body back home for burial in the United States or let it remain for permanent burial in one of eight yet-to-be-built cemeteries in France, Belgium and England. Most chose burial in America, with the chance to hold a hometown funeral. However, approximately 33,000 families chose to let their sons and husbands remain buried in Europe.

During the first World War, families with servicemen overseas adopted the now-familiar blue star flag to show the household was home to a fighting man. When soldiers died, families wanted to find a way to mark the special nature of sacrifice. With encouragement from the federal government, families changed the blue stars to gold. This is the origin of the Gold Star Mother, a special term and symbol to honor a mother’s sacrifice. During the 1920s, Gold Star mothers and their supporters began to lobby the government to take them to Europe to visit their sons’ graves. These trips became known as pilgrimages, and the pilgrimage story is worth remembering.

Getting the U.S. government to fund and conduct pilgrimages was a 10-year effort. To be sure, many prominent and wealthy families made their own private pilgrimages after the war to honor their fallen sons. Mothers of soldiers such as Quentin Roosevelt – Teddy’s youngest son – and the poet Joyce Kilmer needed no government assistance to travel overseas. Yet most women lacked the resources to make the trip themselves. Congress boasted many strong advocates for government-funded pilgrimages. New U.S. Representative and future New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia introduced the first pilgrimage bill in 1919. It took 10 years of legal wrangling to pass a bill four presidential administrations later. Funeral directors were special foes of the pilgrimages; they wanted all bodies returned to the United States for burial.

From 1930-1933, the United States government organized and conducted a series of trips for mothers and widows of deceased World War I servicemen. The U.S. Army led the pilgrims on a month-long trip, which saw them leave their homes across the country and then travel to New York City. The women formed groups, called parties, in New York and traveled together overseas on luxury liners. They saw the sights in Paris and the Great War battlefields around France. Visiting the loved one’s grave was the objective of the pilgrimages. Each woman visited the grave over three or four successive days. The Army provided each woman a wreath of flowers, a photograph of her at the grave, and plenty of time alone. Cemetery visits were viewed as a time for private mourning and reflection, not for ceremonies and empty speeches.

Most of the pilgrimage activities took place in France. At the time, France and America were common allies, bound together by the losses and sacrifice both had experience in the war. The French were grateful for America’s support during the war, and French eagerly welcomed the Gold Star Mothers to France. Today’s ruptured relationship between France and America would be impossible for the Gold Star Mothers and their hosts to understand.

The pilgrimages were not without controversy. The War Department segregated black women from the white, forcing them to travel on separate, but not equal, pilgrimages. The black women endured second-class treatment in the U.S. before experiencing unprecedented freedom in Paris. In addition, a number of citizens protested what were perceived as “luxury” foreign trips at government expense during the depths of the Great Depression. Nevertheless, the trips proceeded as planned.

In the end, the pilgrimages worked. They helped thousands of women say goodbye to their dead and find peace in their lives. Yet the pilgrimages remain fascinating today. It was viewed as a great mission of peace, yet the U.S. Army planned and conducted the entire operation. Perhaps never before or since had the government carried out an operation to spend public money to relieve private grief and suffering. As Americans fight and die overseas today, this forgotten chapter of American history remains relevant; honoring war dead and supporting their families is an activity without end.

Used by permission from WILL AM-FM-TV, University of Illinois at Urbana-Chapaign
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