Mildred Norman Ryder was born July 18, 1908 on a poultry farm in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey.
In 1933, Mildred eloped with Stanley Ryder. Then in 1939, the couple moved to Philadelphia.
They divorced in 1946.
In the summer of 1952, Mildred hiked the entire length of the 2,050 mile-long Appalachian Trail in one season, the first woman to accomplish this feat.
She then decided to devote her life to promoting peace throughout the world.
On January 1, 1953, in Pasadena, California, she adopted the name “Peace Pilgrim.”
Then, just as Bubba Gump began to run in the 1994 film “Forrest Gump,” she began to walk.
She continued to walk back and forth across the United States for the next 28 years.
She had no organizational backing, carried no money, and would not even ask for food or shelter.
When she began her pilgrimage she had taken a vow to “remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.”
Peace Pilgrim’s only possessions were the clothes on her back and the few items she carried in the pockets of her blue tunic which read “Peace Pilgrim” on the front and “10,000 Miles on foot for peace” on the back.
Then, when she reached her 10,000 mile mark, she changed the shirt to read “25,000 Miles on foot for peace” on the back.
She became a frequent speaker at churches, universities, and on local and national radio and television.
A transcript of a 1964 conversation with Peace Pilgrim from a broadcast on KPFK radio in Los Angeles, California, was published as “Steps Toward Inner Peace”.
She stopped counting miles in that year, having already walked more than 25,000 miles for peace.
Then on July 7, 1981, while being driven from the Chicago area to a speaking engagement near Knox, Indiana, Peace Pilgrim was killed in an automobile accident.
At the time of her death, she was crossing the United States for the seventh time.
After her death, her body was cremated, and her ashes were interred in a family plot near Egg Harbor City, New Jersey.
Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words
In the 1983, the Friends of Peace Pilgrim (an all-volunteer non-profit organization) published the book “Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words.”
In this book, her friends related that Peace Pilgrim’s physical journey began after having experienced a “spiritual awakening”, following a long period of meditation practice.
She claimed that this spurred her to then start her decades-long walking journey for peace.
“In order for the world to become peaceful, people must become more peaceful. Among mature people war would not be a problem – it would be impossible. In their immaturity people want, at the same time, peace and the things which make war. However, people can mature just as children grow up. Yes, our institutions and our leaders reflect our immaturity, but as we mature we will elect better leaders and set up better institutions. It always comes back to the thing so many of us wish to avoid: working to improve ourselves.” Peace Pilgrim
Today, the Friends of Peace Pilgrim are still dedicated to making information about the life and message of Peace Pilgrim available freely to all who ask.
Since 1983, they have published and distributed over 400,000 copies of the 1983 book and over one-and-a-half-million copies of the 1964 booklet, Steps Toward Inner Peace.
Now WE know em
On July 12, 2005 a park in her hometown of Egg Harbor City, New Jersey was renamed and dedicated in memory of Peace Pilgrim.