She was born in a chicken farm in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey in 1908 as Mildred Lisette Norman. Her paternal family originally immigrated from Germany, who did not want to partake in the wars that took place in Germany at the time.
Norman also studied religion in her local church and started understanding how the Golden Rule can be applied everywhere.
After graduating high school, Norman found work and eventually married. Although, the marriage was in decline, with constant arguments. After Norman\’s father died in a car accident and her husband was shipped to fight in World War II, Norman decided to spend her time helping senior citizens.
After divorcing her husband and after 15 years of struggling with her own spirituality, Norman would spend the rest of her life embarking on a walk on a pilgrimage of peace. She would spend 24 years traveling across the country multiple times, spreading the word of peace. Amidst vagrancy arrests, misunderstandings, harsh weather, Norman would continue to live up to her moniker as the Peace Pilgrim. She would pass out booklets titled Steps Toward Inner Peace, which would eventually expand to 600,000 copies by Friends of Peace Pilgrim.
She would become the first woman to cross the Appalachian Trail in 1952.
Unfortunately, when being driven to a speaking arrangement in Indiana, she was hit in an automobile accident. She died of injuries in 1981.
Her religious views would impact how she viewed the concept of peace. Throughout her early years, she developed a form of pantheistic belief of God as the amalgamation of everything in existence. Since that is the case, Norman concluded that peace was the means of connecting with God.
As far as other people’s view of Norman\’s religion, they discovered similarities between their own faiths and with Norman’s. Specifically, her views were comparable to the Baha\’i Faith, Christian Science, and Eastern religions. It is not far from a possibility to think that the Peace Pilgrim’s way is similar to Eastern religions. It especially relates itself to Jainism, in which its main principle is non-violence. Not only that, but within that religion, there are monks who dedicate their lives to possessing nothing–sometimes not even clothes–and only accepting what is given to them. It is important to note that Norman never asked for food or shelter unless they offered them to her.
New Jersey Impact
While she had been an inspiration to many people all over America, in New Jersey, Norman has been inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. There is also a park named Peace Pilgrim Park which is located in Norman\’s hometown Egg Harbor City.
What Can We Learn?
It would take a lot of initiative to abandon a marriage and a comfortable life, and embark on a life-long pilgrimage. It is not unheard of for anyone in that background to abandon their luxuries in order to connect with their religion or pursuit for peace. This was seen with nobles in Medieval Europe, such as King Brychan, who abandoned their luxuries and adopted a monastic life.
- Becker, Richard. St. Brychan: King and Saint of Wales. Catholic Exchange. 2019.
- Benick. “Peace Pilgrim-1980-Hawaii.” Wikipedia. 1980. CC BY-SA 2.5. Changes include cropping image into New Jersey image frame.
- Campbell, Braden (September 11, 2013). “Author of new book on Peace Pilgrim to take part in Egg Harbor City celebration”. Press of Atlantic City.
- “New Jersey Hall of Fame : Peace Pilgrim”. New Jersey Hall of Fame.
- Peace Pilgrim.
- Rush, Ann and John. “Peace Pilgrim: An Extraordinary Life.”
- Jain, Praveen. “An Introduction To Jain Philosophy.” DK Printworld. 2019.
- Seeley, Katherine (June 27, 2018). “Overlooked No More: Emma Gatewood, First Woman to Conquer the Appalachian Trail Alone”.