I spoke with the National Chairman of the Board of the Gold Star Wives of America, Inc. Mrs. Rose Lee. She shared, "This group was started by a 22 yr. old widow in 1945. She had a need to get together with others in the same situation as she."
From this tiny beginning the GSW, as a group, were born. They were embraced by Eleanor Roosevelt , and their official beginning occurred through incorporation by the State of New York in December, 1945. They received their Federal Charter by Congress in Dec, 1980. There are 280,000 widows in America, receiving a small stipend, Champ-VA (similar to Champus), due in large part by the efforts of a handful of women who are among the 12,000 members of the GSW of America, Inc. They are busy making certain that legislation that must be annually enacted upon by Congress will occur, so that these stipends will continue. They are invited to testify at hearings on The Hill concerning Veteran's affairs and benefits. They are very active with VAVS, (Vet. Assoc. of Voluteer Services).
I asked the President of the Potomac Chapter of the GSW, Marianne Nugent, why she became a member...why does she spend hundreds of hours every month volunteering for these causes? Her answer: "You have a sister when you need one!" And wonderful sisters they are! The GSW local and national organizations keep their members apprised of benefits and compensations that are due them, and their children. A main function for local chapters is to come up with resolutions for the National level that will meet the needs of Veterans. They are all involved with Veteran's and memorial programs, and the local chapter makes three annual visits, bringing gifts, to the Soldier's and Airmen's Home in D.C. (of the 45 visited, 23 never have any other visitors).
All this on only one fundraiser a year, an annual "Stay-at-Home Tea" to which members are encouraged to donate whatever they would have spent on baking and traveling to a Tea. That, and the $15 annual dues, barely makes the monies necessary to continue. According to Mrs. Lee, many members had to drop out when the dues were raised to $15 because so many of the widows are left with so little. Because they are a non-profit organization, they cannot solicit funds. In many events the Gold Star Mothers, Inc. and the GSW of America, Inc. work together for the benefit of all. For further information, contact Marianne Nugent at (703) 780-3685, she is well known by several AOWCGWA members for her selfless efforts.
Information for this article was gleaned from interviews with those previously mentioned, the Pentagram Article of Sept. 17, 1999 by Laura Bonner, and statements made by Margaret Murphy Peterson, the Legislative Committee Director of GSW of America, Inc.