Shortly after World War I the Gold Star Mothers Club was formed in the United States to provide support for mothers that lost sons or daughters in the war. The name came from the custom of families of servicemen hanging a banner called a Service Flag in the window of their homes. The Service Flag had a star for each family member in the military. Living servicemen were represented by a blue star, and those who had lost their lives were represented by a gold star. Gold Star Mothers are often politically and socially active. Today, membership in the Gold Star Mothers is open to any American woman who has lost a son or daughter in service to the United States. On the last Sunday in September, Gold Star Mother's Day is observed in the U.S. in their honor. USC Title 36 Sec. 111 The group holds a congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code.
On June 4, 1928, the members of the club decided to establish it as a national organization. They incorporated in Washington DC under the name of American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. At the time, the club had sixty five members, but this number soon increased as more women learned about the national organization.
Today, membership in the Gold Star Mothers is open to any American woman whose child has died in the line of duty of the United States Armed Forces. Stepmothers and adoptive mothers are eligible for membership under certain circumstances. Husbands of Gold Star Mothers may become Associate Members, who do not vote or pay dues.
Gold Star Mothers is made up of local chapters, which are organized into departments. Five members are required to start a local chapter. If no local chapter is available, a woman may join the organization as a member at large.
Just as when it was founded, the Gold Star Mothers continues to concentrate on providing emotional support to its members, doing volunteer work with veterans in general and veterans' hospitals in particular, and generally fostering a sense of patriotism and respect for members of the Armed Forces.
In early September 2005, Gold Star Mothers accepted its first non-citizen - Carmen Palmer of Mount Vernon, New York, who was born in Jamaica - as a member. The group had banned non-citizens for the first 77 years of its existence, most notably rejecting the application of Ligaya Lagman whose son Anthony was killed while serving in Afghanistan. Palmer's son, Marine Cpl. Bernard Gooden, died in 2003 in Iraq at age 22.
The group currently has 933 members.
In the 1974 Ohio Senate Primary race between Howard Metzenbaum and John Glenn, Metzenbaum contrasted his business background with Glenn's military and astronaut credentials, saying his opponent had "never worked for a living." Glenn's reply came to be known as the "Gold Star Mothers" speech. He told Metzenbaum to go to a veterans' hospital and "look those men with mangled bodies in the eyes and tell them they didn't hold a job. You go with me to any Gold Star mother and you look her in the eye and tell her that her son did not hold a job."