Peace Pilgrim grew up among a close-knit extended family on a poultry farm in Egg Harbor City, NJ. In 1953, she relinquished her identity and embarked on a 28-year pilgrimage for peace that touched many thousands of hearts, minds, and spirits. Following is a brief timeline of her life.
1908: Born Mildred Lisette Norman on July 18, in Egg Harbor City, NJ, the eldest of three children.
1926: Graduated valedictorian of her Egg Harbor City high school class; began working as a secretary at Liberty Cut Glass Works in her home town. She also wrote, directed and produced plays for the local Grange.
1929: After fire devastated Liberty Cut Glass Works, secured secretarial job at Renault Winery in Egg Harbor City.
1933: Eloped with Stanley Ryder.
1938: Personal turning point; after walking all night in woods, began 15-year transition to life of service.
1938-1952: Slowly simplified her life, worked for peace organizations, hiked regularly. (In 1945, divorce finalized from Stanley Ryder, who had enlisted in the army against Mildred's wishes.)
1952: First woman to walk entire length of the Appalachian Trail in one season; had vision of herself as "Peace Pilgrim."
1953: Begins first cross-country pilgrimage on Jan. 1 from the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, CA., wearing a navy blue tunic with her new name.
1954: Completes 45-day fast.
1955: Begins second pilgrimage from San Francisco, CA. Walks at least 100 miles in each state, visiting each state capital. Also walks in Mexico and Canada.
1957: Walks 1000 miles in Canada, including at least 100 miles in each Canadian province.
1964: Completes 25,000 miles on foot for peace in Washington, D.C. Stops counting miles, but continues to walk for the next 17 years, going through 29 pairs of children's sneakers, averaging 1,500 miles a pair. (At that rate, she actually walked 43,500 miles!)
1966: Begins fourth pilgrimage.
1969 Begins fifth pilgrimage.
1973: Begins sixth pilgrimage.
1976: Through the generosity of a great admirer, visits Alaska and Hawaii for the first time.
1978: Begins seventh pilgrimage.
1979: Leads Alaska educational and inspirational tour in June.
1980: Leads Hawaii educational and inspirational tour in June.
1981: Formally nominated for Nobel Peace Prize by a group of church leaders from Memphis, TN in the spring. (She could not be considered posthumously.)
1981: Passes to "a freer life" near Knox. IN, on July 7, while on her seventh cross-country walk.