Jerry Summers: The UDC And The Gold Star Mothers

Saturday, January 30, 2021 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and Gold Star Mothers (GSM) are two women’s groups that were formed to honor deceased husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers who were killed in armed conflicts. The UDC honored those in the Civil War fighting for the South beginning in September 1894 and the Gold Star Mothers was formed to uphold the memory of all American military inductees slain in World War II and subsequent conflicts.

Though both began with commendable goals of honoring the bravery and supreme sacrifice of the fallen warriors, today they are looked at from diverse viewpoints for the current political climate.

The United Daughters of Confederacy was formed on September 10, 1894 in Nashville, Tennessee by Caroline Meriwether Goodlett of Tennessee-Kentucky (1833-1914) and Anna Mitchell Davenport Raines of Georgia (1853-1914).

The UDC was the outgrowth of numerous ladies’ hospital associations serving societies and knitting circles that worked throughout the South during the Civil War to supply the needs of soldiers in the Confederacy.

Subsequently the organization evolved into cemetery and memorial units and for nearly 30 years rendered service to the South and aging veteran survivors.

Its primary goal was to “uphold the memory of the Confederate veterans who died in the Civil War” – Preserving those memories both in word and memorials throughout the South became their main focus points".  Other goals were to “assist widows and children of Confederate veterans.”  Their support of the “Lost Cause” theory that the cause of the four-year conflict was “States rights” and not “slavery” became a popular theme of the die-hard defeated secessionists and politicians in the post war period after 1865 that has hindered the expansion of civil rights to the present and has resulted in some current day efforts to eradicate much of the history of the past and diminish the reverence towards the memory of the fallen heroes. 

The tradition of the Gold Star Mothers began in World War II when the practice of using a blue star on service flags to represent each living active-duty member in the conflict was created.

As military personnel got killed a gold star was placed on the blue flag to honor that person for making the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country.  Eventually the mothers of the descendants became known as Gold Star Mothers and their families were designated as Gold Star Families.

There was an earlier organization formed in 1928 by one woman, Grace Darling Seibold, searching to locate her son who had disappeared while fighting in World War I.  She started the American Gold Star Mothers group that in September each year in Arlington National Cemetery commemorates Gold Star Mother’s Day.

The yearly activities of the GSM include “visiting veterans at home and hospitals, taking them snacks and gifts, reading them stories and letting them know someone is always there for them.”  They also raise funds for the annual Wreaths Across America honoring the dead warriors in national cemeteries.

Current efforts by hate groups in both the black and white supremist organizations that further their political objectives do a disservice to both the UDC and the GSM.

Preserving the memory of the fallen men and women, black, white, and native Americans who were chosen to fight in causes whether “Lost” or “Victorious,” should not become tarnished or diminished because of different objectives and goals of present racist groups and politicians.

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Jerry Summers

(If you have additional information about one of Mr. Summers' articles or have suggestions or ideas about a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com)



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