Mildred Lisette Norman Ryder: Peace Pilgrim

Mildred Lisette Norman

We are all cells in the same body of humanity.  --Peace Pilgrim

The year 2003 marked the 50th anniversary of the first of seven cross-country walks for peace undertaken by Mildred Lisette Norman Ryder, between January 1, 1953 and July 7, 1981. At the age of 44, after a spiritual journey of 15 years in which she transformed herself completely, she embarked on her "calling" to be a pilgrim for peace. For the next 28 years she walked over 25,000 miles, travelling penniless and without any organization, fearlessly calling for international as well as personal disarmament. She walked until given shelter and fasted until given nourishment. Her message was a simple one: overcome evil with good, hatred with love and falsehood with truth. To do this, she said, various stages of maturity must be reached, starting with the self: inner peace first, then peace will be attainable among individuals, the community, the nation and the world.

While she lived, those who only heard about her legendary pilgrimages, wondered if she was a little crazy. Those who met and observed her, however, knew that she was one of the most practical, clear thinking people they had ever known. The only startling-even disconcerting- thing about her was her willingness to live exactly what she preached and to walk her talk. To put her teachings to the test today would only sustain, not settle, the question of who she was. Was she a 20th century anomaly, or one of this century's truest prophets for peace? Did she have a new - even unique - message to share, or was it the visible enactment of an old, well-known religious script practiced en route, over 25,000 miles, that was her genius? Should she be left in obscurity, or should her spiritual legacy be examined for what it may have to say to us today?


Source:  Peace Pilgrim's story was written by Marta Daniels, and is reprinted here by permission of the author. It is adapted from Daniels' extended biography of Mildred Norman Ryder (Peace Pilgrim), first published in short form in Notable American Women, A Biographical Dictionary, Vol. V, Harvard University Press, 2005. The full story ("Peace Pilgrim: Spiritual Teacher, Non Violent Advocate, Peace Prophet") can be found on the Peace Pilgrim web site at:   Reprint of this story in part or whole must have the permission of the author. Contact the author through the Voices website.


Quotes from the Peace Pilgrim

This is the way of peace--overcome evil with good, and falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.

We seem always ready to pay the price for war.  Almost gladly we give our time and our treasures--our limbs and even our lives--for war.  But we expect to get peace for nothing.