May, Memorials, Mothers and Memories

The month of May brings to mind flowers, mothers, and memorials to military members – some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Combining all three, today’s blog reflects on a few of Davenport’s Gold Star Mothers who took advantage of a unique opportunity for Memorial Day in May of 1930.

The Davenport Women’s Auxiliary to American Legion Post No. 26, originally called the Soldiers’ Mothers’ Club, began a city-wide sale of memorial red crepe paper poppies in 1921 after the American Legion adopted it as the official symbol of sacrifice in September 1920. [1] Proceeds of Poppy Day went toward aid for disabled veterans, their families, and the families of those who lost their lives in the war.

The idea of poppies being a symbol befitting the heroes of the war began years earlier with the publication of Canadian John McCrea’s poem “In Flanders Fields” in December 1915. [2] The idea was heavily promoted by Madame E. Guerin, the “Poppy Lady of France” who invited American women to wear the poppy of Flanders Field on May 30th of 1921.

 Democrat & Leader (Davenport, Iowa) March 31, 1921, page 4.

Fifty women and young girls stationed themselves on downtown corners with baskets of blooms. The goal was every man, woman and child in the city procuring a poppy at ten cents apiece. The newspaper reported over 12,500 poppies were sold that first year. [3] Auxiliary members like Mrs. Katherine Kauffman soon adopted the same corner each year, faithfully selling the flowers on “Poppy Day” in memory of loved ones. Her son, Private Daniel Kauffman, had died in July 1918 of wounds received in the Battle of Chateau-Thierry – one of the first offensive actions of the American Expeditionary Forces.

Scrapbook; Accession 2004-07 American Legion Auxiliary Unit 26

Just a few months prior to Private Kauffman’s death, American women began wearing a black arm band adorned with a gilt gold star [4] representing family members who had given up life for country. When the family learned of his death and burial in faraway Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France, Mrs. Kauffman likely adopted that mourning custom as well as changed the blue star to gold on the Service Flag that undoubtedly hung in one window of their home.

Soon the women who had lost their loved ones became known as Gold Star Mothers and Widows.  By 1928, they had successfully formed a national organization known as American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. [5]

In early 1930, a resolution passed the House and Senate to appropriate over five million dollars to finance a pilgrimage for Gold Star mothers and widows to visit the European battle fields and cemeteries where their loved ones had valiantly fallen. [6] Five Davenport women qualified and chose to make the trip. [7] The first to go was 69-year-old Katherine Kauffman.

Mrs. Zella Cox was chair of the Auxiliary’s Poppy Day that year. On May 12th, Auxiliary members gathered at the Rock Island railroad station where Cox presented a wreath of poppies to Gold Star Mother Mrs. Kauffman to place on her son’s grave. After twelve years, and fittingly, on Memorial Day, she would finally see her Daniel’s place of rest.  The brave mother boarded the train for New York; two days later she set sail for Europe.   

Scrapbook; Accession 2004-07 American Legion Auxiliary Unit 26
Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), Monday, May 12, 1930, page 14.

Gold Star mothers Catherine Popp Rehder, Elenora Clouse, and Anna Wiebbecke along with widow Vivian Irwin sailed the following week on May 21st.  One deserving mother, Mrs. Marie Gilbert, opted to make her trip later in the year. [8]

Scrapbook; Accession 2004-07 American Legion Auxiliary Unit 26
Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), Monday, May 19, 1930, page 2.

That Saturday, May 24, 1930, as Zella Cox and the one hundred Poppy Day volunteers in Davenport loyally took to their corners they undoubtedly thought of their friends on pilgrimage. Gold Star mother Mrs. Emma Ball was stationed at Second and Brady streets for the twelfth year in a row. The team from Third and Brady Street netted $472.21. Total receipts reported for the day equaled $2,124.09. [9]

The Auxiliary’s Poppy Day scrapbook for 1930 contains this thoughtful handwritten tribute written by Zella Dee Cox.

Poppy Day was over for another year, and the travelers returned in June from their trips with Auxiliary members waiting at the train station to welcome them home.

Katherine Kauffman described her unforgettable experience when interviewed by the local newspaper: “I know where he is now. I always felt a little uneasy and a little uncertain before. Now I shall always remember the Aisne-Marne cemetery which is so beautifully tended. I shall not think of Dan as lonesome…I am really glad that I did not have him brought home. I am so happy and grateful that I had this chance of visiting his grave.” [10] As they did for all the Gold Star women, officials took pictures of Kaufmann next to her son’s simple white cross marker and presented her with a gold star medallion and a silk flag.

Davenport Democrat and Leader,  July 20, 1930,  page 19.

The Gold Star honorees were invited to a number of Davenport organizations and clubs to share their pilgrimage experiences. All expressed gratitude for the opportunity and praised the efforts of those who choreographed the month-long trip.

Davenport Democrat and Leader,  May 4, 1930,  page 23.

It was surely a monumental May that year for the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 26 and their Gold Star sisters, filled with poppies, memorials and mothers who  hopefully found some sense of peace in their hearts.

[11]  Rest easy, soldier.

Daniel F. Kauffman          Private, Co. A 58th Infantry           July 1918             age 26   Aisne-Marne France

Son of D.F. and Katherine Kauffman

William H. Rehder            Private, Co. F 357th Infantry          Sep. 1918            age 28   St. Mihiel France

Son of Henry and Catherine Rehder

LeRoy S. Gray                    Private, Co. E 364th Infantry          Oct. 1918            age 29   Meusse-Argonne France

Son of Thomas Gray and Mrs. Eleanor Clouse

Earl E. Waldvogle             Private, 1/c Co. F 26th Infantry     Oct. 1918            age 23  Meusse-Argonne France

Son of Augustus Waldvogle and Mrs. Marie L. Gilbert

Leonard F. Ostereicher   Private, Co. G 313th Ammunition Train 88th Division

Only son of Mrs. Anna Wiebbecke                                           Oct. 1918           age 30  Meusse-Argonne France

Clarence Irwin                   Sergeant, Co. L 131st Infantry       Oct. 1918            age 22   Meusse-Argonne France

Son of Thomas Irwin and Mrs. Minnie Moe

Husband of Vivian Irwin

(Posted by Karen)


[1] The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa); Tuesday, May 24, 1921, page 6.


[3] Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa); Tuesday May 31, 1921 page 10.



[6] Constance Potter, “World War I Gold Star Mothers Pilgrimages,” Prologue:  Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration, Vol. 31, Nos. 2-3 (1999):  140-145, 210-215.

[7] The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa); Wednesday February 26, 1930 page ____.

[8] Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa); Sunday May 4, 1930 page 23.

[9] Daily Times (Davenport Iowa); Monday May 26, 1930 page ____.

[10] Daily Times (Davenport Iowa); Wednesday June 18, 1930 page 6.

[11] Pilgrimage for the Mothers and Widows of Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines of the American Forces Now Interred in the Cemeteries of Europe as Provided by the Act of Congress of March 2, 1929 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1930). Reproduced in the Congressional Serial Set under the same title, 71st Congress, 2d sess., 1930, H. Doc. 140, Serial 9225.

Scrapbook, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 26, Accession #2004-07, Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center, Davenport Public Library, Davenport, Iowa.

Auxiliary magazine, May 2021.

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