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.
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."
Information for this article came from: The Gold Star Mother's History Pamphlet of 1998 as well as The Pentagram Newspaper article of Sept 17, 1999 by Laura Bonner, the preamble to resolution 123, 74th Congress and various unmarked sources on the World Wide Web.