On January 1, 1953, at age 44, Mildred Norman Ryder adopted the name Peace Pilgrim, put on a pair of canvas sneakers, donned dark blue slacks, blouse, and a tunic - on which she had sown her new name - and set out to walk the length of the country leaving from Pasadena, CA. She chose blue for her clothing because it is the international color of peace. She chose Pasadena because she wanted to set off walking ahead of the Rose Parade where thousands of people could see her. On that first trip, in the midst of the Korean War, the Cold War, and at the height of the McCarthy era, she walked 5,000 miles from California to New York, from coast to coast and from border to border, sharing her message of peace. She described the timing of her walk:
I realized in 1952 that was the proper time for a pilgrimage to step forth. The war in Korea was raging and the McCarthy era was at its height. There was great fear at that time and it was safest to be apathetic. Yes, it was most certainly a time for a pilgrim to step forward, because a pilgrim's job is to rouse people from apathy and make them think...."
The world situation is grave. Humanity, with fearful, faltering steps, walks a knife-edge between abysmal chaos and a new renaissance, while strong forces push toward chaos. Yet there is hope. I see hope in the tireless work for peace of a few devoted souls. I see hope in the real desire for peace in the heart of humanity, even though the human family gropes toward peace blindly, not knowing the way...I think that those of us who have found the way to peace, should be shouting it from the housetops.
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: http://www.peacepilgrim.com/htmfiles/mdppbio.htm Reprint of this story in part or whole must have the permission of the author. Contact the author through the Voices website.