During World War I, families displayed blue star flags in support of family members serving in the military. If the soldier passed, the blue stars were replaced by gold stars.
As part of the healing process, women formed organizations to mourn and honor their fallen loved ones. They became known as Gold Star mothers and widows and these women lobbied Congress in the 1920s to visit the graves of their sons and husbands overseas. Legislation passed in 1929, and even after the start of the Great Depression, the U.S. government paid to send approximately 6,650 women to France between 1930-1933.
During pilgrimages, the women were treated with the utmost respect and dignity. Military bands and crowds of well-wishers cheered them on their way to France. Army officers and nurses arranged all aspects of the trip and cared for their every need. The women stayed in lavish hotels, were feted at dinners, taken on sightseeing tours and participated in wreath laying ceremonies and other memorial services at the military cemeteries.
No expense was spared to ensure the Gold Star mothers and widows were treated like royalty. A billet card from the pilgrimage of Agnes Fraas highlights this special treatment. Billet cards directed people to assigned lodgings and, in most cases, these cards were simple and discarded after use. However, Agnes Fraas’s billet card for train travel was not a run-of-the-mill card. It is decorated in patriotic colors with gold stars and shaped into a shield. Putting this level of thought into even the smallest details showed the Gold Star mothers and widows that they were respected for their sacrifices. It also highlighted America’s commitment to care for the overseas cemeteries, which helped heal their grief.
Agnes Fraas’s billet card is currently on display in the exhibition Why Keep That?
Visit the Online Collections Database to further explore the collection of Agnes Fraas.