The seeds of activism were planted in Betty Peterson’s American childhood while reading about “real people, doing real things – biographies of those who overcame personal difficulties by carrying on to help others around them”. She found role models in personal heroes like Frank Laubach and his “Each one teach one” literacy movement, and the life of Albert Schweitzer in Africa. Many years in Girl Scouts introduced Betty to what she terms “a spiritual relationship with Nature”. Leading songs at the campfire built a capacity for confidence in front of others.
At an early age, Betty also carried haunting memories of how the Great Depression caused widespread suffering from the financial crash. Such events provoked urgent questions when she was very young of why such things occur and how she could help. The response of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt with his New Deal, and the Works Progress Administration in which she participated as a teenager in the 1930s, provided some answers in motion, setting a precedent for lifelong response to social challenge.