Minimalists in History: Peace Pilgrim

Peace Pilgrim

“The tradition of pilgrimage is a journey undertaken on foot and on faith.”

– Peace Pilgrim

Mildred Norman Ryder began her pilgrimage for peace in 1953, wearing a blue tunic with “Peace Pilgrim” embroidered on the front.

She was 44 years old – my age – when she began walking from California to New York. She kept walking across the US for 28 years untl her death.

She had no money and went without food and shelter until someone offered to feed her or put her up for the night.

After walking more than 25,000 miles, she said “I can truthfully tell you that without ever asking for anything, I have been supplied with everything needed for my journey, which shows you how good people really are.”

“Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness, possesses you.”

– Peace Pilgrim

Peace Pilgrim makes minimalists like Mark Manson and Colin Wright, each of whom own far fewer than 100 things, look like hoarders.

She wore the same clothes every day. Her tunic pockets held everything she owned: a pen, a comb, a toothbrush and a map.

Later, she also carried copies of her booklet, Steps Toward Inner Peace, to give to those who asked how to create peace in their own lives.

I don’t think I’ll ever be as minimalist as Mark Manson or Colin Wright, much less Peace Pilgrim, but I admire people who are able to so strikingly simplify their lives.

Also, I find that reading about people who successfully drastically downsize (whether to pockets, a backpack or a tiny house) almost always teaches me something I can apply to my own life.

“The simplification of life is one of the steps to inner peace. A persistent simplification will create an inner and outer well-being that places harmony in one’s life.”

– Peace Pilgrim

Acknowledging that most people aren’t going to walk a pilgrimage and that children “need the stability of a family center,” Peace Pilgrim encourages everyone to simplify their lives and work for peace.

Her booklet summarizes her beliefs about what we need to do to have inner peace. She instructs us to, among other things:

  • Eat well and get enough sleep, exercise, fresh air, sunshine and contact with nature
  • Think positive thoughts
  • Live what we believe
  • Be of service to others
  • Give up unnecessary possessions and activities
  • Live in the present
  • Try to eliminate negative feelings

“Stop being a surface-liver who stays right in the froth of the surface.”

– Peace Pilgrim

Peace Pilgrim points out that we need to stop being escapists and face life squarely, delving below life’s surface to find reality. When we have the right attitude, we understand that problems are opportunities in disguise.

Without problems, there would be no inner growth. Peace Pilgrim believes, too, that we must solve collective problems, not just our own.

I’m sure that you’ve guessed from her moniker that the collective problem Peace Pilgrim was most concerned about involved how to achieve world peace.

Learn More about Peace Pilgrim

If you’re interested in learning more about Peace Pilgrim, visit the Friends of Peace Pilgrim website. There, you’ll find the text of her Steps Toward Inner Peace pamphlet and a free PDF book, Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work In Her Own Words. If you’re in the US, they’ll even send you a paper copy for free.

10 thoughts on “Minimalists in History: Peace Pilgrim

  1. I’m just getting caught up here, after the craziness that has been this summer! 😉

    I only heard about Peace Pilgrim recently, and I find her very fascinating. Inner peace definitely can not be found through material possessions. Thanks for sharing this!

    • You’re welcome.

      Readers: Check out Bob’s blog, where he writes about a variety of topics, including finding your life’s purpose and enjoying simple things like a swim on a hot day.

  2. I just came across Peace Pilgrim yesterday! I love the lessons learned and growth experienced by purging things from my life that have taken control of me and my time. I’ve seriously started down a new path…one that I was on before I had 9 children and, well, you know all the stuff people can collect when living with other people who aren’t minimalists!! I’m so excited about the Tiny House movement and am seriously looking into getting one, maybe two (because of so many children).
    Thanks for your blog!

    • Maybe it’s just me, but I always take coincidences like that as some kind of sign – I think coming across her two days in a row means you should read more about Peace Pilgrim!

      I actually discovered her many years ago, pre-Internet. I don’t remember how exactly. It was long before I became interested in minimalism. I was more interested in the peace angle at the time.

  3. Christy, I am simply blown away by your post! So much wisdom, so much to take to heart. Thanks for writing this excellent post, and thanks for introducing us to the Peace Pilgrim. Kind Regards, Ahh The Simple Life (Carol and Michele)

    • I’m glad you enjoyed hearing about her. I first encountered her in the context of peace activism, but recently remembered the minimalist connection and went back to reread the pamphlet I mention.

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