Peace Pilgrim found her life purpose and was willing to sacrifice everything for it

By Nina Steele 

In 1953, Peace Pilgrim (born Mildred Norman), made a decision that most people would find simply crazy. She chose to leave her comfortable life behind and walk for peace across the United States. She was 44. By the time of her death in 1981, she had been walking for 28 years! The deep sense of purpose she felt about making the world a better place, meant that she wasn’t afraid to make whatever sacrifices were needed in order to achieve her goal.

Well before becoming Peace Pilgrim, she was already showing signs of being profoundly unconventional. Indeed, at a time when women were expected to live conventional lives by getting married and having children, although she did the former, she chose not to have children. It’s a choice her husband did not share.

In spite of the fact that she and her husband thought differently about starting a family, the marriage carried on, although not for long. Another major disagreement would turn out to be the final straw. As someone who was profoundly against the war, Peace Pilgrim tried hard to convince her husband to defy the authorities when he was drafted to fight in World War II, even though that would have meant him being sent to jail. As far as she was concerned, him going to jail was a far better option than him going to war. He defied her wishes and joined the army. As long as he was in the army, she wanted nothing to do with him, which eventually led to their divorce in 1946.

Explaining the life changing event that led to her becoming Peace Pilgrim she said: “Out of a feeling of deep seeking for a meaningful way of life, I began to walk one night through the woods, with the feeling that I would continue to walk until I’d found what I was seeking. And after I had walked almost all night, I came out into a clearing where the moonlight was shining down. And I found myself saying ‘If you can use me for anything, please use me’. And I found myself feeling, ‘here I am. Take all of me. Use me as you will. I withhold nothing’. And then of course, I felt I had found what I was seeking. I experienced a complete willingness, without reservations whatsoever, to give my life to something beyond myself”. This was to be her spiritual awakening.

By the time of her death in a car crash on July 7th 1981, aged 72, she had walked well over 25,000 miles. With an achievement as remarkable as hers is, needless to say that her legacy lives on to this day. In fact, my own discovery of her work was through a user of this website, a woman, whose life she has touched. She sent me an email on March 9 of this year with a link to a video about Peace’s life. She thought her story warranted an article on this website. And what a story it is!

Peace Pilgrim

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