Martha Dunlop Peterson - Chronicling Life's Journey

“I enjoyed living in other cultures during my travels, and was treated like a queen,” says Martha Peterson (BA English ’85, MA English ’87). Peterson says she has used the knowledge gleaned from Sonoma State in many ways over the past 30 years.

At age 85, Martha published “I Was There… When”. Her journey begins at 55. Having earned a degree in Biology (Whitworth 1949) and raised four children, she joined the Peace Corps and traveled to Sierra Leone to teach science in a secondary school.

Upon Martha’s return in 1984 she enrolled at Sonoma State University to complete a BA in English and write a Master’s thesis on her Peace Corps experience. With her MA in hand, she was eligible to travel with the Peace Corps to teach English anywhere in the world. Her next assignment was in the Balochistan Province of Pakistan. This was cut short due to the Gulf War, but she did manage a year’s experience speaking Urdu and wearing the veil.

“I had long been drawn to the study of languages – French, German, Spanish, Japanese – before my travels ever began. It turns out much of this was in preparation for the journey upon which I would embark,” she says. Martha went on to study Hindi, Urdu, Russian and Chinese. In 1992, Martha taught Bible Wisdom in the Ukraine. Then, between 1994 and 1999, Peterson made three trips to China to teach English. Her last teaching stint was in India in 2001.

Martha smiles and says, “I have met so many people, and I’ve learned over the years that spiritually we are all the same. By 1999, I had a Chinese daughter (my student Wang Lei), a dear friend Rose from Sierra Leone (a symbol of Mother Africa – strong, loving, industrious and resourceful); and a Pakistani son (who adopted me when he was my guide in Lahore).”

She values the importance of an adventurous life, and hopes her story inspires others.

Today, Martha is active with the Redwood Empire Branch of the California Writers, and with a group of women who are dedicated to performing classical music on organ and piano. She studied piano with Marilyn Thompson at SSU, and has logged more than 300 volunteer hours at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa, where she performs classical music weekly.

For more about her Journey, visit

-Sue Riley, University Development