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Gold Star Mother: Mothers of World War I Servicemen

By Christine M. Kreiser
4/1/2016 • American History Magazine

President Woodrow Wilson coined the term “gold star mothers,” but Grace Darling Seibold organized them into an effective lobby. When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, families hung banners displaying a blue star for every loved one serving overseas; a gold star meant he had died. In 1918, Seibold’s own blue star was over-stitched with gold when her son Lieutenant George Seibold, a pilot in the 148th Pursuit Squadron, was shot down over France. His remains were never identified. After years of meeting with veterans and bereaved families, Seibold organized the American Gold Star Mothers in Washington, D.C., in 1928. The group’s first order of business: Convince the federal government to pick up the tab for Gold Star Mothers to visit their boys’ graves in Europe. Seibold’s friendship with first lady Grace Coolidge may have been a deciding factor. Shortly before he left office in March 1929, President Calvin Coolidge authorized $5 million for the trips. In 1936, a joint congressional resolution designated the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mother’s Day. Today, the American Gold Star Mothers organization continues to aid and comfort the families of men and women who died while serving their country.

Gold Star Mothers and Their Sons

6,693 Gold Star Mothers traveled to Europe between 1930 and 1933 to visit the graves of U.S. servicemen who died in World War I

168 of the Gold Star Mothers were black and had to travel on segregated ships

61 to 65 was the age of most of the women who made the voyage

116,516 American military men died in World War I

53,513 were killed in battle

30,921 are buried in eight military cemeteries in Europe

45,588 were returned to the U.S. for burial

4,452 are officially listed as “missing in action, lost or buried at sea”

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