In my search for images of women on Veterans Day, I quickly discovered that the most common pictures were of Gold Star mothers, women who had lost children in American wars. The group was founded in 1928 for mothers of the victims of World War One, later expanding to include other conflicts.
Beginning in 1930, the US government financed trips for Gold Star mothers to visit their sons’ graves in France. While most of the photos I found were of white women, a few acknowledged that white soldiers were not the only ones who died.
This remarkable newspaper shot shows Mrs. Kate Mike from the Winnebago Tribe setting off to find the grave of her son. A confused archivist dated the photo as 1920 (for group that began eight years later) and tagged it as World War Two (wrong war). A little online research shows the date was 1933. A glance at the clothes tells the same story, with the iconic cloche hats of the twenties combined with longer skirt lengths of the thirties.
We can regret the racist language here—“her son died on the warpath”—and the attempt to make her contribution of a tobacco pouch seem strange. Still I’m glad that the photographer took the time to document this brave 74 year old woman, who did not feel obliged to change her style in order to make the long journey to honor her son.
Apparently Mrs. Kate Mike became well known in some circles, and even had a doll created for her. Compliment or insult? You decide.