Gold Star Mother’s Day

Introduction: In this article – in honor of Gold Star Mother’s Day this Sunday – Gena Philibert-Ortega searches old newspapers to learn about this special day. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.

There are groups no one volunteers to be a member of because the price of membership is too high. One such organization is the American Gold Star Mothers – made up of mothers who have lost a son or daughter in the military service of their country. Gold Star Mother’s Day is observed in the U.S. on the last Sunday of September each year. This Sunday, 25 September 2016, American Gold Star Mothers will be honored by the President of the United States as has been done annually since 1936.

Do you have a Gold Star mother in your family? Curious to learn more about the American Gold Star Mothers? Old newspapers, such as the online collection in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, tell us more about this group and the special day that honors their families’ sacrifices.

Who Are the Gold Star Mothers?

Founded by Grace Darling Seibold in 1928, the Gold Star Mothers were originally united by the common loss of a son who served during World War I. Mrs. Seibold’s son volunteered during WWI for aviation duty. Since the United States didn’t have an air force at that time, he traveled to Canada where he learned to fly British planes, and eventually joined the British Royal Flying Corps. Lieutenant Seibold saw combat in France where he was killed. His mother Grace started the American Gold Star Mothers to assist other mothers who lost a child fighting in the war, and also to provide comfort to injured servicemen in hospitals.*

An article about WWI and George Seibold, Evening Star newspaper article 28 September 1918
Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 28 September 1918, page 10

So where does the name Gold Star Mothers originate? The term “Gold Star Mothers” actually predates the American Gold Star Mothers’ organization. It refers to the service flag families hung during World War I to demonstrate that they had a son in the service. Here is an example of a service flag, this one from WWII.

Photo: World War II-era service flag
Photo: World War II-era service flag. Credit: U.S. Library of Congress; Wikimedia Commons.

A blue star on the flag represented a soldier, a gold star laid over the top of that star, with just a bit of the blue showing, indicated the death of that soldier.** The women who had lost a son were referred to as Gold Star mothers. That service flag continues to be used today.

Though rooted in the losses of World War I, today the American Gold Star Mothers membership includes all mothers who have lost a son or daughter in military service, as well as those whose child is considered missing in action.

An article about Gold Star Mothers, Evening Star newspaper article 10 June 1928
Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 10 June 1928, page 70

Gold Star Mothers’ Service

The Gold Star Mothers are united by tragedy, but they have a purpose beyond remembering what they have lost. This 1968 newspaper article commemorating Gold Star Mother’s Day interviews women at the Long Beach, California, Gold Star Manor which offers housing to members of American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. In addition to sponsoring that facility, according to this newspaper article, individual members “…are dedicated to service in hospitals for veterans and assist dependents of the wounded and those incapacitated while serving their country.”

An article about Gold Star Mother's Day, Plain Dealer newspaper article 29 September 1968
Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 29 September 1968, page 180

Gold Star Mother’s Day

Since 1936, the last Sunday of September has been designated as Gold Star Mother’s Day as proclaimed by the President of the United States. This newspaper article commemorates that first day, proclaimed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and explains that Gold Star Mother’s Day was to commemorate those who died in the World War.

An article about Gold Star Mother's Day, Evening Star newspaper article 13 September 1936
Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 13 September 1936, page 48

Like he has done each year during his term in office – and as the Presidents did before him – President Obama will issue a proclamation designating the last Sunday of September Gold Star Mother’s Day. Last year’s proclamation in part read:

Despite their broken hearts, the families of these warriors are full of love and they continue to serve their communities and comfort our troops, veterans, and other military families. Our country is constantly inspired by their incredible resilience, and in their example we see the very best of America. On this day of remembrance, we honor our Gold Star Mothers and Families by living fully the freedom for which they have given so much, and by rededicating ourselves to our enduring obligation to serve them as well as they have served us.***

Gold Star Mother’s Day 2016

As we get ready to mark Gold Star Mother’s Day 2016, consider your military ancestors who died in service to their country, as well as the family they left to mourn. And remember that historical newspapers printed articles about battles, wartime experiences, and even the personal stories of those who served – good information to help you better understand your ancestors’ lives and the times they lived in.

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* History. American Gold Star Mothers. http://goldstarmoms.com/About/History.htm
** What’s the difference between gold star mothers and Gold Star Mothers. FAQs. Gold Star Mothers of America, Inc. http://goldstarmoms.com/FAQ.htm
*** Presidential Proclamation — Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day, 2015. The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/25/presidential-proclamation-gold-star-mothers-and-familys-day-2015

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