Peace Pilgrim

I want to introduce you to one of my sheroes, a lady whose legacy I think everyone should know …

Peace Pilgrim

That’s the name Mildred Norman Ryder chose when she heeded the call of her heart and set out walking.

At age 44, Mildred became the first woman to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in one season.

But that was just the beginning.

Starting the first day of January the following year, 1953, Ryder dubbed herself “Peace Pilgrim” and began a 28-year walkabout—yep, on foot—across the United States.

That’s what I call getting your geographical groove on!

With our country embroiled in the Korean War, Peace Pilgrim became passionate about peace, and she wanted people to pay attention. Somehow, even the most cynical among us can’t seem to look away from the sort of person who will put aside her earthly possessions and walk the walk.

Intent on traveling light, her only belongings were the clothes on her back and the few items she could carry in the pockets of her blue tunic, which read “Peace Pilgrim” on the front and “25,000 Miles on Foot for Peace” on the back. She didn’t have any formal funding. She carried no money.

Photograph taken during a 1980 Hawaii Retreat, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Benick.

The goal? Peace Pilgrim vowed to wander until mankind learned the way of peace. She traveled from California to the east coast and back again, sleeping on roadsides or haystacks unless offered a place to stay, eating only when offered food. Like the birds, she drifted south with colder weather and north with summer’s heat.

In her words, “A pilgrimage is a gentle journey of prayer and example. My walking is first of all a prayer for peace. If you give your life as a prayer, you intensify the prayer beyond measure.”

She wandered for nearly three decades, throughout the U.S.involvement in the Vietnam War and beyond, crossing the U.S. seven times. Along the way, she often stopped to speak at churches and universities, and she was featured on radio and television programs. With only her voice and her vision, Peace Pilgrim touched an entire nation.

If you want to learn more about Peace Pilgrim’s life (and I know you do), look to these links:

Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words by Peace Pilgrim

Peace Pilgrim: An American Sage Who Walked Her Talk (1-hour video documentary)

  1. Shery says:

    Even though she didn’t bring peace to the world, she shared her anointed gift of personal peace among those she met and that is all any of us can do, realistically. What an inspiration. Be peace where right where you stand. Great reminder, thank you on this sunday morning.

  2. Heidi Bee says:

    What a beautiful legacy to leave behind! You really do have to admire those who “walk the talk”.

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