Her name was Peace Pilgrim; She Walked Thousands of Miles in North America to Promote World Peace
Mildred Lisette Norman was born on July 18, 1908. She grew up in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey. Norman was the oldest of three children. Her mother was a tailor, and her father was a carpenter. Her family was far from wealthy, but those in the German immigrant community thought highly of the Norman family. During her spiritual journey, Mildred Lisette Norman would touch the hearts, minds, and lives of thousands of people all over North America
She described her childhood as very quiet. Norman loved having woods where she could play, a creek to swim and plenty of room to grow. Norman's sister said the children in their family were taught to think for themselves and not simply follow what they were told like sheep. Norman did well financially when she became an adult. She was living a very materialistic life. Norman was led to believe by those around her that money and possessions would provide her with a life of happiness and peace of mind. This was the path she pursued until her conversion.
During the 1930s, she walked into the woods and felt a desire to give her life to something beyond herself. She prayed that if she could be used for anything, she is ready to be used for it. That night in her mind and spirit, she committed herself to pursuing something larger than herself. This is when she became a Peace Pilgrim and started making plans for her pilgrimage.
The time between her epiphany in the woods and starting her pilgrimage was around fifteen years. During this time, she walked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in one season. She is one of the first women to have completed the trail. Peace Pilgrim knew she was not destined to be a mother. She began following certain spiritual principles for herself. It included purification of her body with diet and exercise. Purification of thinking by not giving into negative thoughts. She also gave up any attachment to material goods as well as negative reactions, feelings and more. She divorced her husband. He had been drafted into the Army. When her husband's sergeant found out she wanted her husband to be a conscientious objector; the sergeant said it was grounds for divorce. She knew her pilgrimage would be made much easier if she did not have to leave family behind.
Peace Pilgrim began her spiritual journey on January 1, 1953. It was a journey that would last for approximately 28 years. She walked in the 1953 Rose Parade in California and never stopped walking. After the parade, Peace Pilgrim walked all the way across the country. A journey that took her over twelve months. She eventually made her way to the United Nations building in New York City. After this accomplishment, Peace Pilgrim continued her walking journey. She traveled with almost no possessions. Having only a comb, pencil, a single set of clothes and a toothbrush: she walked. Peace Pilgrim said she had taken a vow to remain a wanderer until mankind learned the ways of peace. As she became known around the country, Peace Pilgrim would stop in different places for speaking engagements and provide interviews for the local media. Peace Pilgrim was able to walk across the United States six times. She also spent time walking in Canada and Mexico.
Kindness Of Strangers
She would travel wearing a tunic. On the front of it was the words 'Peace Pilgrim.' She originally had 'Walking Coast to Coast for Peace,' on the back of her tunic. It quickly became outdated, and in 1964 she changed it to '25,000 miles on foot for peace.' Eventually, she stopped counting the miles she walked. One of the things she did daily was have faith in the kindness of strangers. She carried no money and never asked for food or shelter. People would always approach her and offer food and often a place to sleep for the night. She also regularly slept outdoors. She lived as a spiritual wanderer supported by people she met during her journey. It is estimated she averaged approximately 25 miles each day she walked.
Peace Pilgrim would tell people she constantly experienced a sense of strong inner peace during her journey. Her feeling of communion with the world and people she met was unshakeable. One time during her walks, Peace Pilgrim was arrested for vagrancy and thrown in jail. She told friends, she had no fear of jail. Peace Pilgrim felt it was an opportunity to carry on her mission and speak about world peace with other people. During her time in jail, she got the other women prisoners to sing songs. Her favorite was 'The Fountain of Love.' After authorities had determined she wasn't a threat; Peace Pilgrim was released.
After 28 years of walking around the United States, Mexico, and Canada, Peace Pilgrim was a well-known and popular speaker. She was often requested to speak at churches, schools, and other places. Peace Pilgrim died in a car accident in Knox, Indiana on July 7, 1981. Mildred Lisette Norman known as Peace Pilgrim was 72 years old. She was in a car and being driven to a meeting. At the time of her death, Peace Pilgrim was in the process of walking across the United States for a seventh time. After her death, her body was cremated. A family plot close to Egg Harbor City, New Jersey is where the ashes of Peace Pilgrim are interred.
Friends of Peace Pilgrim
Today, there are people who are dedicated to keeping the ideas and spirit of Peace Pilgrim alive for everyone to enjoy. In 1983, Friends of Peace Pilgrim, a non-profit organization completely staffed by volunteers was started. It is dedicated to providing information about the life and message of Peace Pilgrim. The organization provides this information free to any person who asks for it. Since its beginning, the organization has provided more than 400,000 copies of the book 'Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words.' They have also provided over 500,000 copies of a booklet written by Peace Pilgrim. It is called 'Steps Toward Inner Peace.' This book and pamphlet have been made available around the world and translated into more than a dozen languages.
Peace Pilgrim Park
This was opened in 2005 and is located in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey. This is the town where Peace Pilgrim grew up. The park consists of a few acres of grassy areas. It contains a statue of Peace Pilgrim as well as a serpentine waterway, butterfly garden memorial plaques, a gazebo and picnic benches. It was dedicated to the memory of Peace Pilgrim. It is maintained by the Friends of Peace Pilgrim. An annual Peace Pilgrim Celebration is held at the park and in other places around Egg Harbor City.