The Gold Star Mother Pilgrimages of the 1930s

Overseas Grave Visitations by Mothers and Widows of Fallen U.S. World War I Soldiers


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About the Book

During the first World War, a flag with a gold star identified families who had lost soldiers. Grieving women were “Gold Star” mothers and widows. Between 1930 and 1933, the United States government took 6,654 Gold Star pilgrims to visit their sons’ and husbands’ graves in American cemeteries in Belgium, England, and France. Veteran Army officers acted as tour guides, helping women come to terms with their losses as they sought solace and closure. The government meticulously planned and paid for everything from transportation and lodging to menus, tips, sightseeing, and interpreters. Flowered wreaths, flags, and camp chairs were provided at the cemeteries, and official photographers captured each woman standing at her loved one’s grave. This work covers the Gold Star pilgrimages from their launch to the present day, beginning with an introduction to the war and wartime burial. Subsequent topics include the legislative struggle and evolution of the pilgrimage bill; personal pilgrimages, including that of the parents of poet Joyce Kilmer; the role of the Quartermaster Corps; the segregation controversy; a close examination of the first group to travel, Party A of May 1930; and the results of the pilgrimage experience as described by participants, observers, organizers, and scholars, researched through diaries, letters, scrapbooks, interviews, and newspaper accounts.

About the Author(s)

John W. Graham manages the Government and Business Department at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. He is also the co-producer of an award-winning PBS documentary on the Gold Star mothers. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Bibliographic Details

John W. Graham
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 239
Bibliographic Info: photos, chronology, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2005
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2138-1
eISBN: 978-0-7864-9199-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Preface      1
Pilgrimage Chronology      5

1. What Were the Gold Star Pilgrimages?      11
2. The Great War      26
3. Pilgrimage Legislation: A Decade in the Making      50
4. Do-It-Yourself Pilgrimages      75
5. The Quartermaster Corps in Peace and War      95
6. Black Stars and Gold      116
7. Pilgrim Profile: Louise and Grace Ziegler      139
8. Party A      159
9. The Pilgrimage Experience      178
10. Conclusion      202

Notes      207
Bibliography      217
Index      223

Book Reviews & Awards

“A good addition”—Military Librarian’s Newsletter