Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Nancy G. Garner, Ph.D. (Committee Chair); Paul D. Lockhart, Ph.D. (Committee Member); Opolot Okia, Ph.D. (Committee Member); Jonathan R. Winkler, Ph.D. (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


This study discusses a politically driven change in American women’s public mourning customs over the fallen of World War I. During the war, government officials and politicians sought to transform women’s grief over a fallen loved one into a celebration of an honorable military death. They actively discouraged the wearing of traditional black mourning and instead urged the wearing of a simple black armband with a gold star. This substituted glory for grief and thus made their loved one’s death a mark of distinction by giving their life in the service of their country. The radical change in women’s public mourning over a soldier’s wartime death, initiated by the unlikely partnership of President Woodrow Wilson and Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, demonstrates how two powerful political leaders used women’s public grief to help expedite their own political agendas. This study also explores the political networking which resulted in the evolution of the gold star icon and the distinction between how women mourned a war related military death as opposed to a civilian death before and during the World War I period.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of History

Year Degree Awarded


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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