She was Peace Pilgrim, who tried to persuade mankind to put aside its weapons and seek peace through peaceful means.
She had no computer blog, no newspaper column TV or radio show, no book tour or other money making venture.
Instead she surrendered her home and her other possessions and on January 1st, 1953 at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, began speaking to people about peace.
So began her journey in which she walked homeless and penniless across the U.S. nearly seven times and across all of the Canadian provinces and part of Mexico for peace.
Peace wasn’t part of any organization and she walked alone. But she was not afraid, nor did she feel alone for she fervently believed she walked with God, appealing to people to seek peace and to love one another.
Sometimes Peace spoke to large crowds, often to small groups and other times one to one. As time passed she became a popular guest on radio and TV shows, often interviewed by the press and was a frequent college campus and church speaker.
This brilliant lady was a colorful speaker who engaged the audience and would enthusiastically answer their questions with insight, humor and compassion.
You may be wondering, with no money how she ate and where she slept. Peace said God always provided for her.
A vegetarian, she never asked for meals or shelter. She ate only when people offered her food, which they almost always did and she slept when offered a bed or in bus depots, train stations, all-night truck stops, along side of highways or in parks or country meadows.
During her 28-year journey, she dressed simply. She wore a navy blue shirt and pants, and a short blue tunic with pockets at the bottom in which she carried her few possessions, such as a comb, a toothbrush and pen and paper so she could answer letters forwarded to her from a small New Jersey post office.
On the front of her tunic in white lettering, it read “Peace Pilgrim.” On the back it read “25,000 Miles On Foot for Peace,” although in 1964 she stopped counting the miles and walked many thousands of miles more. Her simple message made her easily approachable to people.
And many people approached her, such as this man who stopped his car to speak with her:
“He looked at me, not unkindly, but with extreme surprise and curiosity, as though he had just glimpsed a live dinosaur. ‘In this day and age,’ he exclaimed, ‘with all the wonderful opportunities the world has to offer, what under the sun made you get out and walk a pilgrimage for peace?’
“In this day and age,” I answered, “when humanity totters on the brink of a nuclear war of annihilation, it is not surprising that one life is dedicated to the cause of peace – but rather it is surprising that many lives are not similarly dedicated.”
This was typical Peace Pilgrim. She felt it was vital to rouse people from apathy and get them involved in making this a more peaceful world.
For if people don’t get involved, political leaders will promise peace and few deliver it, instead fighting wars for peace (which she felt was logically absurd) with the lives of others.
When Peace spoke it was always for free. “Truth is the pearl without price,” she would say as she wanted to welcome and engage people, not make money from them.
But she deeply touched people and they wanted to donate. Typically they sent their donations to the small New Jersey post office where volunteers collected it and used the money to publish her words and send them out free to anyone who requested it.
You may be wondering, prior to her pilgrimage, who was Peace Pilgrim and why did she conduct such a vast journey? Born Mildred Norman in New Jersey, she was a working woman, divorced from her husband.*
She was deeply troubled by World War ll, the Korean War, the Cold War with the Soviet Union, by the threats of the McCarthy era and by the poverty that gripped so much of the world.
She saw the mass suffering those wars had caused and watched in horror as the U.S. began an arms race and spent staggering sums of money on weapons, just as it does today.
She realized that money could have been used to uplift humanity and make this a far better and safer world. Instead the money was wasted on war and the world endangered. Peace refused to ignore what was happening and feeling God’s guidance, she tried to stop this madness.
In doing so, she almost always walked to her speaking engagements. But because she became so popular a speaker, on occasion Peace was driven to a speaking engagement.
In 1981, while being driven to an engagement, she was killed in a car accident just prior to her 73rd birthday. But don’t be sad. For her it was “the glorious transition to a freer life.”
In her final radio interview the day before her death, the host remarked “You seem to be a most happy woman.” Peace replied, “I certainly am a happy person. How could one know God and not be joyous?”