Peace Pilgrim

by Sujata S from San Diego, California

This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, and falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. - Peace Pilgrim

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps he hears a different drummer - Henry David Thoreau 

In this world, many of us hear a different drummer, but how many take a leap of heart and turn in that direction? Mildred Norman Ryder just did that; she turned to a different tune, and began walking, never to look behind, on an off-beaten path and transformed herself into ‘Peace Pilgrim’.

Mildred Norman Ryder grew up with two younger siblings in a modest family in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey. Like any other youth, after her education, she earned and liked to spend money on material things. But gradually the idea of acquisition and maintenance of possessions seemed self-centered and pointless, and her search for a deeper meaning in life began. At the height of her search, one night she walked alone, for hours, deep in the woods. Finally, upon reaching a moonlit clearing, she had a realization that her life was meant to be of service to humanity. She spent the next 15 years serving in various roles, always giving to others, all the while deepening her search within. Mental and physical discipline, relinquishments, many ups and downs during this preparatory period of 15 years finally led her to a serene and joyous experience of inner peace. The final clarity dawned on her that she was to be a messenger of peace - peace among nations, among individuals, and most importantly peace within. 

With this idea of spreading peace, she began her journey on foot, on January 1st, 1953 from Pasadena, California, with her heart filled with peace, faith, and a big smile. Her only belongings were a comb, toothbrush, pen, and flyers that fit in her pockets; most importantly she carried no food or money. Her plan was to walk on foot, not eat until anyone offered food, and sleep anywhere if no one offered shelter. Television, newspaper reporters, and general people took notice, and soon people came to know about her peace mission. She walked untiringly and fearlessly on highways, through cities, and countrysides. She met people from all the walks of life, at times went without food for days, faced extreme weather conditions, and slept in nice homes as well as on roadsides or farms, but remained equally peaceful and happy wherever she was. She inspired many during her journey. School teachers, ministers, householders, farmers, truck drivers, and other people would invite her to speak in schools, churches, farms, and truck stops. Some of the folks she met during her walks became her lifelong friends. People wrote letters as she continued her walk, and she regularly mailed them her responses. After walking cross-country through multiple states, she concluded her first walk at the United Nations building in New York on December 17th, 1953. She had vowed “to remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace,” and hence she did not stop after her first walk but continued to walk in the United States, Canada, and Mexico to spread her message. However, to meet her speaking engagements, she started accepting rides after her first pilgrimage. 

Peace Pilgrim enjoyed boundless energy, unshakable peace, and good health throughout the 28 years of her walking journey. She was unafraid of dying and considered death of the body as an end to the adventure and a transition to a freer state of life. Her adventure ended on July 7th, 1981, when the car she was traveling in for a speaking engagement met with an accident. For her, “death was a beautiful liberation into a freer life.”

Her life exemplified the fact that human nature can be transformed by self-discipline, and that joy and peace do not depend on external things but need to be sought within. After her death, the ‘Friends of Peace Pilgrim’ have continued her peace mission by compiling her messages in books, CDs, DVDs, flyers, and on a website. Her message has thus reached and inspired many to search for peace within, seek peace with family members and friends, work on a peace project in the neighborhood, or write letters to Congress to encourage peace among nations.

My salute to this fearless pilgrim and to the friends of peace pilgrim who are spreading her message of peace, joy, and love beyond the boundaries of this continent into the whole world.



Page created on 2/10/2020 5:19:04 AM

Last edited 8/15/2020 11:17:23 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.


Peace Pilgrim, Friends of. Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words.

Peace Pilgrim, Friend of. Peace Pilgrim: An American Sage Who Walked Her Talk (1 hr documentary). [Online] Available

Peace Pilgrim, Friends of. Peace Pilgrim's Legacy. [Online] Available