Gold Star Mothers

In May 1918 President Wilson approved the suggestion of the Women's Committee of National Defenses. It recommended that American women should wear a black band on the upper left arm, adorned with a gold star. Each star representing a family member who had given his or her life for their country. This was suggested in lieu of conventional mourning attire.

The "star" tradition began in WW I when white Service Flags were displayed from homes, business, schools and churches to indicate, by the use of a blue star, each active service member in the U.S. Military. A gold star stitched over a blue star showed the nation those who had given their lives for their country and the devotion and pride of those left behind. This tradition continued through WW II.

In his Letter to the Women's Committee by Pres. Wilson the term "Gold Star Mother" was first used. The Gold Stars not only signified the supreme sacrifice made by the deceased, but intended to give their family a measure of pride and consolation. June 4th, 1928 was the day a group of 25 mothers in Wn DC made plans to begin a national organization to be known as American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. It was to be a nonpolitical, nondenominational and nonprofit organization. Incorporated on Jan 5, 1929, it had 65 charter members from all areas of the U.S. As recently as June 12, 1984, the ninety-eighth U.S. Congress granted the GSM, Inc. a Federal Charter. A list of purposes and provisions are listed, to include general promotion of peace and good will in: assisting veterans and their dependents in the presentation of claims to the V.A.; perpetuating the memory of those whose lives were sacrificed; giving lessons of patriotism, love of country and respect for the country's flag to local communities and to extend assistance to all GSM. This organization was and is open to all mothers of fallen soldiers of all wars as well as those who have died a service-related death.

In March 1929, eleven years after World War I, the U.S. Congress passed a law authorizing the use of government funds to pay for mothers and widows of fallen veterans to visit their loved ones buried on the battlefields of Europe. This unprecedented program honoring the "Gold Star" mothers and widows was entrusted to the Quartermaster Corps for proper and faithful execution.

At 11:30 a.m. on Friday, 7 February 1930, in the Red Room of the White House, Mrs. Lou Henry Hoover, the President’s wife, reached into a large silver bowl and pulled out the first of 54 unsealed envelopes. Each had in it a card bearing the name of a state or overseas territory. The first state picked was Nebraska -- and the card was instantly handed over to The Quartermaster General.

Two hundred and thirty-one women boarded the Quartermaster steamer S.S. America on 7 May 1930 and left New York harbor for Europe. Over the next three years, ending with the return of the S.S. Washington in August 1933, some 6,693 Gold Star mothers and war widows had made the pilgrimage abroad. No nation before or since has ever so honored the women whose sons and husbands gave their lives in the service of their country.

Presently GSM groups give support to their local veteran's hospitals in many ways and help with and attend veteran's ceremonies. They have their own license plate available, monthly meetings, annual conventions, and are eligible to live at the group's complex, American Gold Star Manor in Long Beach, CA. The last Sunday of September has officially been declared GSM day. Upon the death of a son or daughter, the U. S. Gov't provides the mother (and often the other family members) a small gold-star pin.

Betty Spengler, a resident at The Fairfax in Alexandria, lost her son in Viet Nam. She said , "You always have your memories that are there--especially during the Holidays."

"My mother-in-law, Julia Magruder, also a GSM lost her youngest son in Vietnam while all three of her sons were serving. She shared the following: "My receiving the gold star was a satisfying and proud remembrance of the son it stood for. The smallness of the pin creates a very personal relationship when worn. It signifies so much."

Shortly after World War I the American Gold Star Mothers Inc. was formed in the United States to provide support for mothers that lost sons or daughters in the war. The name came from the custom of families of servicemen hanging a banner called a Service Flag in the window of their homes. The Service Flag had a star for each family member in the military. Living servicemen were represented by a blue star, and those who had lost their lives were represented by a gold star. Gold Star Mothers are often socially active but are non-political. Today, membership in the Gold Star Mothers is open to any American woman who has lost a son or daughter in service to the United States. On the last Sunday in September, Gold Star Mother's Day is observed in the U.S. in their honor.[1] The group holds a congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code

Founding of Gold Star Mothers

The Gold Star Mothers was founded by Grace Darling Seibold of Washington, D.C. Her son, First Lieutenant George Vaughn Seibold, was killed in aerial combat over France in August, 1918. Mrs. Seibold was already doing volunteer service in a veteran's hospitals. After her son's death, she continued this work, and also began organizing a group of other women who had lost their sons in the war. The mothers did volunteer work together, and served as a support network for one another.

On June 4, 1928, the members of the club decided to establish it as a national organization. They incorporated in Washington DC under the name of American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. At the time, the club had sixty five members, but this number soon increased as more women learned about the national organization.

Gold Star Mothers Today

Today, membership in the Gold Star Mothers is open to any American woman whose child has died in the line of duty of the United States Armed Forces. Stepmothers and adoptive mothers are eligible for membership under certain circumstances. Husbands of Gold Star Mothers may become Associate Members, who do not vote or pay dues.

Gold Star Mothers is made up of local chapters, which are organized into departments. Five members are required to start a local chapter. If no local chapter is available, a woman may join the organization as a member at large.

Just as when it was founded, the Gold Star Mothers continues to concentrate on providing emotional support to its members, doing volunteer work with veterans in general and veterans' hospitals in particular, and generally fostering a sense of patriotism and respect for members of the Armed Forces.

In early September 2005, Gold Star Mothers accepted its first non-citizen - Carmen Palmer of Mount Vernon, New York, who was born in Jamaica - as a member. The group had banned non-citizens for the first 77 years of its existence, most notably rejecting the application of Ligaya Lagman whose son Anthony was killed while serving in Afghanistan. Palmer's son, Marine Cpl. Bernard Gooden, died in 2003 in Iraq at age 22.

The Uniform

The uniform that a Gold Star Mother wears consists of a white skirt, white shirt, and a white blazer, with a gold star embroidered on either lapel, and gold piping on the sleeve cuffs, and collars, and white shoes, either Mary Jane's, or pumps, with a white cap, similar to a women's service hat, with gold piping. This uniform is worn at all parades, meetings, and social functions connected with military functions (i.e. Memorial Day services at Arlington National Cemetery, etc.)

Famous Members

Perhaps the single most famous mother to have joined was Aletta Sullivan, the mother of the five Sullivan brothers, who were killed in action when their ship, the USS Juneau (CL-52) was sunk on November 13, 1942 during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal


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