— by Caroline Ticknor
From Granite State Monthly vol 50-51, 1918-1919, p. 470
I have a star of gold on my breast,
A star of strife, a star of rest;
It marks a sword-thrust through my heart,
It tells of glory and of pain
Of bitter loss and wondrous gain,
Of youth that played the hero’s part.
O, star of gold upon my breast,
Tell of those stars that he loved best;
He bore the stripes, he suffered all
To keep our banner free from stain;
He hath not given all in vain
In answering his Nation’s call.
O, star of hope upon my breast,
Strength the faith I have professed;
He died that nations might be free;
Help me to live for truth and right,
And with my woman’s soul to fight
Nerved by his immortality.
It is only fitting that I write about Gold Star Mothers on Mother’s Day. Many people don’t realize that there is a separate Gold Star Mother’s Day. It recognizes the mothers of American men and women who have died while serving in the military and is held on the last Sunday of September each year (on September 24th in 2017). These moms are also recognized on the “regular” Mother’s Day.
-History of the Gold Star and Service Flags-
Before I go into detail on New Hampshire’s Gold Star Mothers, I need to write about the gold star. The origin of the term, “Gold Star Mother” that indicates a woman who lost a child to war has a somewhat complicated history. The WWI service flag and the term, Gold Star Mother are intimately connected. During WWI a red, white and blue service flag with blue stars was hung in the front window of a house. The number of stars equated with those from the household who were in military service. When a death occurred the blue star was embroidered over, or replaced, with a gold star.
There are web sites and stories that imply that both the (commonly used) service flag of WWI and the gold star were part of laws passed between 1917-1920, when I have found absolutely no evidence to prove this. A few newspapers hint of “authorization by the U.S. government.” These really refer to letters from high ranking government officials that recommended a particular design (the letters having been solicited by one particular flag designer). Both this service flag and the gold star were ideas that caught on and became popular. Newspapers of the day reinforce that the usage was “accepted generally” but not required.
The designer of the WWI service flag that was the most popular and whose construction is still used today seems to have been Captain R.L. Queisser of Cleveland Ohio (see his patent exhibit and link to the left). According to the New-York Tribune of 23 Nov 1917, page 6, he thought up the flag in March of 1917 while confined to bed after an automobile accident. The story states he received “a minimum royalty from manufacturers, half of which he contributes to the American Red cross. He has two sons in the army as officers.”
On June 8, 1917 the Holbrook News of Holbrook Arizona published an article regarding the “service flag which has recently been authorized by U.S. government. The flag may be made any size desired; it is made with a red border surrounding a white center and across the white center is placed as many blue bars as the person displaying it has near relatives in the army or navy service.”
On June 22 1917 the Middletown Times-Press of Middletown Nebraska published an article attributing the use of service flags to England: “The flag measures three by five feet, and is of a red body with one white stripe upon which is placed one star for each member of the family in the military service. The idea originated in England when the war started, when from the housetops were displayed flags showing that from that particular home had gone forth some member of its family. Not to be left behind in this progressive move, Caron & Towner Company has prepared for the display of service flags when the members of Company I and the Hospital Corps are again called to the service of the nation.”
By October of 1917 Capt. Queisser filed for a patent (perhaps fearing someone else might beat him to it), and it was officially patented the following month. At that point he started contacting manufacturers demanding a royalty fee for each flag they made using his particular design. Capt. Queisser was not the only person who patented service flag designs during WW1, only the popularity of his caught on quickly with the general public. Notice that his original patent mentions blue stars but nothing about gold stars.
Though President Woodrow Wilson may have had a hand in coining the term “Gold Star Mother,” (in a letter of May 1918) he did not invent the use of the gold star on service flags. As early as February 1918 there was a notice in the Philadelphia Inquirer of 7 February 1918 of Elmer E. Ranck of Ocean City who died in Waco, Texas and “is the first to have his memory honored by a golden star in a service flag purchased by him..”
A month later in on 22 March 1918, several newspapers including the Fort Wayne News Sentinel (Fort Wayne IN), page 1 were publishing notices about the use of gold stars on service flags (see advertisement on left). These two notices in early 1918 were the first indication I can find of the general use of gold stars. President Wilson did not issue his letter mentioning “Gold Star Mothers” for two more months (May 1918).
The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh PA) of 9 Feb 1918 published a story on HOW TO MAKE A SERVICE FLAG. “An 18×20 inch service flag may be made from one and a third yards of four-in-wide red ribbon, 10 inches of white ribbon and enough blue to form the stars to which you are entitled. Cut the red ribbon into four pieces, two of 18 inches length and the other two so that they finish off four and a half inches, allowing for seams. Sew these strips together, inserting the white piece for the field. Then applique a blue star, or embroider it, according to desire. The white field will be varied in size accordance with the number of stars used.”
-Service Flags in New Hampshire-
In New Hampshire, families who had relatives in the military flew a service flag in their front windows. In addition, many organizations such as the Odd-fellows, Elks, churches and others flew blue-starred service flags to represent their membership.
On June 17, 1918 the Nashua Telegraph announced: “Winchester (NH)–a service flag bearing 230 stars was unfurled with fitting exercises at St. George’s church Sunday.”
On 5 November 1917 the Portsmouth Herald announced that “a service flag was hung from the home of the Portsmouth (NH) Lodge of Elks on Pleasant Street, the first large flag of this description hoisted in this city. The flag contains 73 stars signifying the number of men from that organizations in the service of the army or navy. Since the flag was ordered two more members have joined the ranks of Uncle Sam’s forces and later the lodge will add the extra stars.”
On 26 December 1917 the Portsmouth Herald republished an article from the Manchester (NH) Mirror. “Unfurling of Service Flags. The custom of unfurling service flags, which tell the mute but glorious record of homes and organizations in contributing of their membership to the service of their country that the world may be made free, in both a national and individual sense, is one of the most beneficial that has been devised since the United States took a stand to uphold the liberties of the world. The custom is one that impresses its lesson upon the public mind in a most effective and lasting manner. As the passerby comes in sight of a church, home, clubhouse or dwelling he notes the service flag if there be one, involuntarily counts the stars and is impressed by the fact that this organization, this club, this church, this home has sent one, two, three or more of its members into the great world-wide strife to uphold the honor of the country. In obedience to the custom of unfurling service fags there were two notable examples of this in our city on Sunday, when a service flag containing 164 stars was unfurled from St. Joseph’s cathedral with the blessing of the devoted bishop who delivered a patriotic and fervent address in commemorating the event. Also there was unfurled but a few squares south of the cathedral at St. Anne’s church, another service flag, one bearing 151 stars–a star for each member of old St. Anne’s parish who has gone to war. Referring to the flag the eloquent pastor of the church, the Rev. John J. Lyons said to an impassioned address: “This flag will not be torn down by German or Hun, but will fly until America triumphs in the cause of justice and liberty.” “The Star Spangled Banner” was sung at both the cathedral and St. Anne’s Church as the flags were displayed. Still other service flags demonstrations were held Sunday–one at St. Paul’s M.E. church and the other at the People’s Baptist church. At the former one of the organizations connected with the church presented a flag bearing 28 stars and at the latter an organizations within the church gave a flag bearing 15 stars.”
-A Brief History of the Gold Star Mothers Pilgrimage-
According to the Smithsonian Museum, the National organization of Gold Star Mothers resulted from a meeting held in Washington, D.C. on 24 June 1928, a decade after WWI ended. Prior to that date the organization was composed of scattered groups of women who met locally usually as guests at patriotic events. This group lobbied for the U.S. government to pay for mothers (and widows) to visit the graves of their sons/husband in Europe.
The National Archives web site states: “in 1929 Congress enacted legislation that authorized the secretary of war to arrange for pilgrimages to the European cemeteries “by mothers and widows of members of military and naval forces of the United States who died in the service at any time between April 5, 1917, and July 1, 1921, and whose remains are now interred in such cemeteries.” These pilgrimages took place over several years.
In February of 1930 a drawing was held by Mrs. Herbert Hoover in the White House, with the various states and territory names written on index cards. The order of random draw determined the priority for arranging pilgrimages for those locations. The Portsmouth Herald of 12 Feb 1930 reported that Gold Star mothers and widows ranked only fifty-third (fifty-two other states and territories had priority before New Hampshire).
A list of New Hampshire Gold Star mothers was created with the following numbers of women from the New Hampshire counties: Belknap County 2; Carroll County 2; Cheshire County 5; Coos County 3; Grafton County 7; Hillsborough County 15; Merrimack County 7; Rockingham County 6; Strafford County 3; and Sullivan County 3.
Names of New Hampshire mothers and widows on the Pilgrimage list.
Note: Being on the list does not mean they actually went on the pilgrimage.
Mrs. Mary Coolidge, Center Harbor, son Capt Hamilton Coolidge
Mrs. Henrietta Garland, Meredith, son Pvt. Roy H. Griggs
Mrs. Maude A. Lincoln, Freedom, husband 1st Lt. Clark R. Lincoln
Mrs. Alice S. Staples, Center Ossipee, son Cpl. Herbert E. Staples
Mrs. Mary Elsie Clough, Alstead, son Pvt 1c Harmon Clough
Mrs. Alice S. Geiger, Keene, husband Pvt. George P. Geiger
Mrs. Carrie R. Humiston, East Jaffrey, son, Bugler John Humiston
Mrs. Rose LaBounty, Keene, son Pvt. Nelson A. LaBounty
Mrs. Annie Minatt, Winchester, son Cpl. John E. Minatt
Mrs. Anna Bourassa, Cascade, son Cpl. Emil N. Bourassa
Mrs. Joseph Scammon, Berlin, son Pvt. Everett Scammon
Mrs. Arthimise St. Hilaire, Berlin, son Pt. Emile St. Hilaire
Mrs. Joseph Badger, Littleton, son Pvt. Armond J. Badger
Mrs. Rosa N. Eastman, Easton, son Pvt. Wesley M. Eastman
Mrs. Fannie Emerson, Lebanon, son Cook Lloyd F. Emerson
Mrs. Cedona Fifield, West Thornton, son Pvt. Henry A. Fifield
Mrs. Percey Nutting, son Cpl. Oscar F. Nichols
Mrs. Nora G. Weld, Gorham, son Cpl. Vern H. Weld
Mrs. Etta M. Willey, Rumney, son, Pvt. Willie J. Bacon
Mrs. Annie Wilson, Woodsville, son Cpl. Alexander E. Wilson
Mrs. Ellen Algar, So. Lyndeboro, son Ensign Philip Algar
Mrs. Pauline G. Algar, So. Lyndeboro, husband Ensign Philip Algar
Mrs. John Beck, Mason, son Pvt. James H. Beck
Mrs. Louise Bedard, Greenville, son Pvt. Gilbert Bedard
Mrs. Nancy Bouley, Nashua, son Pvt. Eli Bouley
Mrs. Ella S. Call, Manchester, son Pvt. Ernest J. Call
Mrs. Angelina Chartier, Manchester, son, Pvt 1c David Chartier
Mrs. Angelina Chartier, Manchester, son, Pvt. Louis N. Chartier
Mrs. Blanch B. Coffin, Amherst, son Pvt. Arthur E. Burnham
Mrs. Leah M. Elliott, Nashua, husband Capt. Wilkie I Elliott
Mrs. Agnes Fountain, Manchester, son Sgt. Wm. F. Fountain
Mrs. J.E. Fournier, Manchester, son Pvt. Louis Fournier
Mrs. Jose Willon Guthrie, Manchester, son Pvt. William J.B. Guthrie
Mrs. Ida Johnson, Manchester, son Pvt Arthur G. Johnson
Mrs. J.B. LeMay, Manchester, son Pvt. Victor W. LeMay
Mrs. Jennie F. Richardson, Manchester, son Cpl. Joseph L. Richards(on)
Mrs. Fred Severance, Manchester [Hooksett] Cpl. George N. Merrill
Mrs. Mary Barnie, Henniker, son Pvt. James M. Barnie
Mrs. Jennie Haywood Beauclerk, Concord, son 1st Lt. Sydney W. Beauclerk
Mrs. Mary C. Wilkins, Pittsfield, son Pvt. Earl W. Cram
Mrs. Bridget Grady, Concord, son, Pvt. Edward J. Grady
Mrs. Ellen Maria Hooper, Newbury, son, Pvt. Don S. Hooper
Mrs. Ella H.H. Houston, Wilmot Flat, son Pvt 1c David H. Hodges
Mrs. Eliz. P. Veno, Concord, son, Pvt. George J.R. Veno
Mrs. Adelbert Covey, Exeter, son Cpl. Earl A. Covey
Mrs. Jennette P. Dutton, Portsmouth, son Cpl. Harold L. Dutton
Mrs. Ellen Fuller, Exeter, son 2nd Lt. Kenneth E. Fuller
Mrs. Mary Pettis, Newton, son Pvt. Arthur G. Pettis
Mrs. Hulda Thomas, Portsmouth, son 1st Sergt. Thomas C. Gunnard
Mrs. William H. Thomas, Candia, husband, 2nd Lt. William H. Thomas
Mrs. Ruby Conant Elson, Strafford, stepson, Cpl. Charles D. Elson
Mrs. Hattie F. Moore, Rochester, son Pvt Frank O. Moore
Mrs. Georgianna Roleau, Somersworth, son Pvt. Joseph Roleau
Mrs. Effie B. Belloir, Newport, son Pvt. Claud J. Brewster
Mrs. Phoebe P. Brunell, Claremont, son Pvt. Alba F. Brunell
Mrs. Salome Cupples, Newport, son 2nd Lt. Lorne L. Cupples
— The Current Gold Star Mother Organization —
There are a number of Gold Star and Blue Star Mothers organizations that are active in New Hampshire. They have a web site with links to the various organizations. There is also a New Hampshire Gold Star Mothers Memorial Association that worked to place a commemorative statue in Stanton Park in Manchester NH (in 2011). Support your local veterans and their families.
[Editor’s Note: this story is part of an on-going series about heroic New Hampshire men and women of World War I. Look here for the entire listing].