Peace Pilgrim
Teacher, activist
Born: July 18, 1908, in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey
Died: July 7, 1981, in Knox, Indiana
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2016: Public Service

Peace Pilgrim walked. She walked across the United States and Canada. She walked for peace and she inspired untold thousands with her message that one person, no matter how small, can make a difference.

She was born Mildred Lisette Norman on a poultry farm in Southern New Jersey, the eldest of three children. Her mother was a tailor; her father a carpenter. She graduated valedictorian of her Egg Harbor high school and went to work as a secretary at a hometown business, Liberty Harbor Glass Works, and later at the nearby Renault Winery.

After an unhappy marriage, she began a transformation, working for peace organizations and finding inner peace by simplifying her life. She also took to walking. In 1952, at the age of 44, she became the first woman to walk the entire 2,050 miles of the Appalachian Trail in a single season. Along the way she developed the vision for a new purpose and a new way of life.

In 1953, she gave up all her worldly possessions, travelled to California, and stepped out in front of the annual Rose Bowl Parade to hand out leaflets promoting peace. Her navy-blue tunic announced her new identity: Peace Pilgrim. It was the beginning of a 28-year journey, during which she walked across the continent seven times, visiting every state and every Canadian province.  She also brought her peace message to Alaska and Hawaii.

Pilgrim walked on faith. She carried no money and accepted none. She took food and shelter when it was offered by well-wishers. She gave speeches and presentations, but never for a fee. She walked to promote peace among nations and peace with the environment. And she walked to encourage people to find inner peace, as she had done.

In 1964, Pilgrim stopped counting at 25,000 miles walked, but kept on walking. It’s estimated she walked more than 43,000 miles. Tragically, in 1981, while on her seventh cross-country walk, Pilgrim was killed in an automobile accident while being driven to a speaking engagement.

A non-profit, all-volunteer organization called Friends of Peace Pilgrim has endeavored since 1983 to keep Peace Pilgrim’s vision alive and to share her life story. A book published after her death, “Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words,” gathers Pilgrim’s writings, letters, interviews and more to share the story of her spiritual awakening and her journey to inner peace. Friends of Peace Pilgrim distributes the book for free around the world.

Pilgrim’s inspiration lives on for her many followers. As she once said, “Every good thing you do, every good thing you say, every good thought you think, vibrates on and on and never ceases.”

Intro/Acceptance Video