Harriet Bedell vs. Thomas Gallaudet

Since they were both teachers, among other things, Harriet Bedell vs. Thomas Gallaudet can mean only one thing: Educational Armageddon! The winner of this penultimate (we just love saying that word) match-up of the Saintly Sixteen will square off against Harriet Beecher Stowe in the next round.

Yesterday Phillips Brooks defeated Catherine of Siena by a nose (head?) as preacher trumped mystic 53% to 47%. (okay, it wasn’t that close but when else besides, perhaps, John the Baptist’s feast day can we make references to disembodied skulls). He’ll go on to face Julia Chester Emery in the Elate Eight.

With the conclusion of today’s showdown the Round of the Elate Eight is nearly set. On Monday Thomas Merton takes on Charles Wesley for a crack at Anna Cooper. At this point, the others moving on are Basil the Great, Julia Chester Emery, Lydia, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Phillips Brooks, and Anna Cooper.

As we head into the weekend and yet another bout with LMW (Lent Madness Withdrawal) we leave you with a challenge. Help us get to 10,000 likes on Facebook before the 2014 Golden Halo is awarded. We’re over 9,500 at this point so it’s an attainable goal if we all pull together and compel people to like us during coffee hour, at the Peace, in the church parking lot, talking to strangers at IHOP, whatever. The Supreme Executive Committee likes big, fat round numbers.


Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida

Harriet Bedell

Whether she was riding horseback in Oklahoma, mushing on dog sleds to remote villages in Alaska or poling through canals in the Florida Everglades (in her high-topped, snake-resistant boots), Deaconess Harriet Bedell, though tiny in stature, lived a super-sized life for God.

The Deaconess, as she is still known among Episcopalians in southwest Florida, never wavered in her faith or in her complete devotion to native people.

About her first post, among the Cheyenne people at the Whirlwind Mission in Oklahoma where she served with Deacon David Oakerhater (Lent Madness 2012 alum), she wrote:

We open school with Morning Prayer… I then take my twenty little ones to my house…which has this advantage, that I am ready to answer any immediate call which may come to the house. There is no doctor within twelve miles, so we have to act as doctors, and nurses, besides being lawyers, amanuenses, and spiritual advisors.

Her work in Alaska between 1916 and 1931, first in Nahana and then after a year in Stevens Village, was similar. Except with snow.

When the mission closed in Alaska, the Deaconess was sent to Florida to drum up funds for mission work. She was appalled at the living conditions of the Seminole people and how the people were put on display for tourists, wrestling alligators, and staging mock weddings. Apparently an appalled deaconess was a formidable deaconess, and, within a year, she was beginning the hard, patient work of winning the trust of the Seminole tribe.

She supported her new mission with the assistance from leaders of the Collier Corporation, a citrus concern that owned great swaths of the Everglades. One executive, George Huntoon, suffered the brunt of her “persistence.” He recalled, according Marya Repko’s her excellent 2009 book, Angel of the Swamp, “that she would come tromping up the stairs…to request help. In an attempt to avoid these confrontations, his secretary would say that he was not in while he snuck down the fire escape. It did not take long for the Deaconess to realize the ruse and meet him at the bottom of the steps.” Years later Huntoon observed, “When the Deaconess got after you for something. I found it was best to acquiesce and comply with her request because she would keep after you until you got it done for her.”

Margory Stoneman Douglas, a historian and of the Everglades, wrote of the Deaconess in 1947, “The deaconess, like a small steam engine in dark-blue petticoats, walks fast in and out of the trail camps, speaking to everybody by name, asking about sick babies, bringing some old man a mattress pad for his aching bones…taking somebody to the hospital, or getting work for the boys.”

According to Repko, someone once asked a Seminole man if he had known the Deaconess. He replied, “Yes, and I loved her.” Then he pointed to the heavens and said, “she knew God.”

Heidi Shott

unnamedThomas Gallaudet

One of the great things about Thomas Gallaudet is his amazing family. His grandfather, Peter Wallace Gallaudet, was the personal assistant to George Washington while the Presidency was in Philadelphia. His father, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, is considered by many to be the father of manual (i.e. sign-language based) Deaf Education in the U.S.

Gallaudet’s mother, Sophia Fowler, is a woman Gallaudet rightly held in high esteem. In a sermon, Gallaudet describes how his mother, who was deaf from birth, taught him sign language. “I learned this powerfully descriptive method of communicating ideas from my mother. I remember well how I watched her face and hands as she affectionately tried to train me in the right way.” Among other things, she taught him that deafness was not an impediment to intelligence or achievement, as she actively lobbied members of Congress to support the Columbia Institution for the Deaf (now Gallaudet University). Gallaudet’s youngest brother, Edward Miner Gallaudet, was Columbia’s president for 46 years.

Our Thomas Gallaudet was no slouch, mind you. It’s worth noting that, in a time when one could not receive communion without being confirmed, and one could not be confirmed without reciting the Lord’s Prayer, the sacraments were almost completely denied to those who could not speak. Gallaudet’s work in providing signed services made it possible, not only for the deaf to “hear” the service, but allowed them to be confirmed, receive communion, and become ordained.

“There is no reason, therefore,” Gallaudet preached, “why deaf-mute men, fitted to be admitted to priest’s orders, should not minister among their own kind in the language which makes prayer and praise common to those who have assembled (intelligently, notwithstanding their terrible deprivation) around the table of their Lord and Master, the Christian altar, and as they stretch forth their hands so eagerly and earnestly to receive the consecrated elements, and to spiritually feed on the Body and Blood of Christ, to know in their inmost souls the meaning of the encouraging word, ‘Ephphatha.’”

Gallaudet changed the hearts and minds of people in the Episcopal Church to believe that the deaf could and should, not only be welcomed, but lead and minister to others. That he did so while remaining beloved by all throughout his life is a testament to how he practiced what he preached: “In all works of practical benevolence, zeal must be combined with discretion, and earnestness must be controlled by judgment. And let us ever be ready to say in our hearts, that if this work, which is so dear to us, is not of God, let it not prosper, but let providential circumstances bring it to a speedy termination. This is looking at our labor with the eye of true Christian philosophy.”

P.S. Happy Deaf History Month!

Laura Darling



Harriet Bedell vs. Thomas Gallaudet

  • Harriet Bedell (58%, 2,553 Votes)
  • Thomas Gallaudet (42%, 1,818 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,371

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121 Comments to "Harriet Bedell vs. Thomas Gallaudet"

  1. Cricket's Gravatar Cricket
    April 4, 2014 - 8:09 am | Permalink

    Thomas for the Golden Halo!!!

    • M2's Gravatar M2
      April 4, 2014 - 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Thomas to be “haloed.” Deaf President Now movement is celebrating 25 years. Thomas — the man of self-determination that roused the kiddies to protest and take their university into themselves — no political hearing crony for them. What guts! What bravery! Of course, Thomas spirited them forward then and continues now! May we all seek self-determination when fighting for social justice for all!

  2. John Hamilton's Gravatar John Hamilton
    April 4, 2014 - 8:14 am | Permalink

    Got to say this one was an arbitrary choice between two equally inspiring to me.

    • April 4, 2014 - 8:21 am | Permalink

      I felt the same way.

      • Cynthia Castaneda's Gravatar Cynthia Castaneda
        April 4, 2014 - 9:44 am | Permalink

        Me, too. This one was the toughest by far, so far.

        • Lee Borden's Gravatar Lee Borden
          April 4, 2014 - 10:07 am | Permalink

          It was the toughest of choices. I finally went with Harriett because she made me look up “amanuenses.” That’s unfair, I know, because I also had to look up “Ephphatha.”

          • April 4, 2014 - 10:43 am | Permalink

            Me, too, though I still haven’t decided for whom to vote.

          • April 4, 2014 - 11:46 am | Permalink

            That is exactly why I voted for her too. Had to break the tie somehow!

  3. Tom Tuthill's Gravatar Tom Tuthill
    April 4, 2014 - 8:15 am | Permalink

    Thomas Gallaudet — spreading the Gospel — (so did Harriet Bedell), but I go with Thomas. (Note about one of yesterday’s contestants — if you go to Sienna, you can see the relics of St. Catherine, including the Finger that the Pope gave Sienna!) I gave my vote to Catherine because anyone who tells the pope to move his tush deserves recognition. And congratulations to Philips Brooks on his victory — we are all winners because of all the saints in the bracket! Thanks to those who put this together — much more interesting that 10 guys running around and throwing a ball through a hoop.

    • Bonnee's Gravatar Bonnee
      April 4, 2014 - 6:10 pm | Permalink

      I thought that Siena had partial remains but that the primary location is in Rome at Santa Maria sopra Minerva church near the Pantheon.

  4. Molly Reingruber's Gravatar Molly Reingruber
    April 4, 2014 - 8:16 am | Permalink

    I don’t have anyone left on my bracket but Anna, Basil, and Thomas. it has been rough, rough I tells ya. I’m starting to feel like the little kid in the room that never gets to pick the TV show the family watches. However, I recall Paul’s encouragement to “run with perseverance the race” and to “build up one another” I hesitantly cast a vote, and a hope.

    • MaurineRuby's Gravatar MaurineRuby
      April 4, 2014 - 9:57 am | Permalink

      Same here–I only have Harriet Beecher Stowe, Lydia, Julia Chester Emery, and Charles Wesley!!

    • Lane Johnson's Gravatar Lane Johnson
      April 4, 2014 - 2:03 pm | Permalink

      I’ve missed almost every one of this round. Thanks, Basil and Lydia. I don’t really understand how I can be this out of step with the voting public, Oh, wait. I’m a Democrat in Texas. I should be used to this.

  5. Madeleine Baier's Gravatar Madeleine Baier
    April 4, 2014 - 8:16 am | Permalink

    Thomas Thomas he’s the man!!

  6. Madeleine Baier's Gravatar Madeleine Baier
    April 4, 2014 - 8:19 am | Permalink

    Deaf history month? ………what didja say? . ……

  7. Molly Reingruber's Gravatar Molly Reingruber
    April 4, 2014 - 8:19 am | Permalink

    Forgot I’ll have the chance on Monday to vote between two of my picks: Merton and Charles W.

  8. April 4, 2014 - 8:25 am | Permalink

    Our Lent Madness Team
    Please consider allowing the many wonderful “candidates” who were defeated in early rounds over the past years to be resurrected and included in future contests. If you do this already I am appreciative

    • Madeleine Baier's Gravatar Madeleine Baier
      April 4, 2014 - 9:01 am | Permalink

      Margaret, groovy idea! Really!

    • Elaine Hood Culver's Gravatar Elaine Hood Culver
      April 4, 2014 - 10:28 am | Permalink

      Great idea!

    • Maria's Gravatar Maria
      April 4, 2014 - 12:14 pm | Permalink

      Wonderful idea!

  9. Scott Elliott's Gravatar Scott Elliott
    April 4, 2014 - 8:29 am | Permalink

    Harriet Bedell. That is all.

  10. martha's Gravatar martha
    April 4, 2014 - 8:32 am | Permalink

    As one starting hearing loss (my son comments that instead of saying “eh?” I now say “B?”), it’s Thomas Gallaudet for my vote. Sorry Deaconess. As much as I admire your work, that’s the way it will be.

  11. Joy's Gravatar Joy
    April 4, 2014 - 8:36 am | Permalink

    Thomas – in honor of Deaf History Month. Do love HB though!

  12. April 4, 2014 - 8:42 am | Permalink

    This was pretty much outrageous to make a choice- both are big winners in any way you chose to set the standards. There should be the draw option- mess up the brackets, but madness requires absurdness. Give thanks for such wonderful examples of doing God’s work in spite of obstacles and adversity.

    • Sandy's Gravatar Sandy
      April 4, 2014 - 10:38 am | Permalink

      Well said! Absurd is the right word, having to choose between these two. / :

  13. Gigi's Gravatar Gigi
    April 4, 2014 - 8:46 am | Permalink

    Harriet’s missionary work was inspirational, but there are so many that have walked this path. Thomas chose a unique path, so he got my vote.

  14. Betsy Heilman's Gravatar Betsy Heilman
    April 4, 2014 - 8:50 am | Permalink

    Boy this was a hard one! Let me cast my vote for resurrecting saints in future years that didn’t move up this year. Oh, and the vote the time? Harriet Bedell, who appears to be a social worker at heart. But under other circumstances Thomas would have gotten it.

  15. Another Peg's Gravatar Another Peg
    April 4, 2014 - 8:51 am | Permalink

    Harriet reminds me of a little lady in our community who was so persistent, business owners and leaders of organizations would see her coming and tell the underlings, “Just give her what she wants!” I admire the deaconess, but Thomas ‘moves me closer to God’ this morning as I imagine the son and the mother and their graceful, dancing hands. Thomas helped light shine in to the church and out to the world. I shimmer my hands to you, Thomas.

    • April 4, 2014 - 10:46 am | Permalink

      Oh, I love your description, weaving the words of the saints into an answer for today. I believe I have decided. Thomas it shall be.

  16. Bob Corey's Gravatar Bob Corey
    April 4, 2014 - 8:51 am | Permalink

    I don’t see sainthood in either, but much to admire. I voted for the man because he’s a man, but am in awe of the Deaconesses that stayed among the people who priests would only come visit from time to time. I’ve read several memoirs and biographies of the men involved in Virginia’s mountain missions, but it was the Deaconesses who worked in relative obscurity through whom Christ dwelled. Some may even be saints. As I said a few days before, the most saintly among them will be best known as saints when we’re all together in Paradise. Still, one born on Charles Wesley’s feast day (guess my vote tomorrow) has a special affection for the Deaf through yet another born that day, who also founded the National Geographic Society where my father worked most his life — Alexander Graham Bell. But mostly because Thomas has a Y chromosome. Neener neener.

    • Kristenza's Gravatar Kristenza
      April 4, 2014 - 9:52 am | Permalink

      I definitely see your point here……

    • April 4, 2014 - 10:29 am | Permalink

      Thanks. You’ve convinced me to vote for Harriet!

  17. Walter Gladwin's Gravatar Walter Gladwin
    April 4, 2014 - 8:56 am | Permalink

    As much as I love Thomas’ activist mission for awareness of the handicapped in the Episcopal church, Harriet was more effective in bringing souls into the Kingdom.

    • Robin's Gravatar Robin
      April 4, 2014 - 6:07 pm | Permalink

      Maybe I’m not understanding Walter. Like Lee, I am the only deaf person at my church but I do have an interpreter. Um “Thomas’ activist mission for awareness of the handicapped in the Episcopal Church, Harriet was more effective in bringing souls into the Kingdom??” Surely this doesn’t mean deaf/Deaf don’t have souls? He didn’t just bring awareness of people with disabilities (“handicapped” is very outdated.) He invited us to worship and even ordained a deaf man. Hopefully, I’m misunderstanding this post.

  18. Jane Hawthorne's Gravatar Jane Hawthorne
    April 4, 2014 - 9:06 am | Permalink

    I’m looking forward to the face off between two Harriets!

  19. Ruth Paulus's Gravatar Ruth Paulus
    April 4, 2014 - 9:06 am | Permalink

    Two amazing people. I vote for both in my meager heart. Of course… That doesn’t count… So Harriet got my vote. Just love this madness!

  20. patrucia cooper's Gravatar patrucia cooper
    April 4, 2014 - 9:08 am | Permalink

    This was a hard one. Both worked with God to right wrongs. I had a special sympathy for the indians.
    The deaconess was strong and caring. People with her determination must be one with God.

  21. Ellen Lincourt's Gravatar Ellen Lincourt
    April 4, 2014 - 9:10 am | Permalink

    In a way, Thomas was like Christ. Christ made the blind see and Thomas made the mute speak. I cannot imagine anyone being denied communion because they could not speak the Lord’s Prayer.

  22. John Hogan's Gravatar John Hogan
    April 4, 2014 - 9:21 am | Permalink

    I have a friend who is deaf, and owes a lot of her freedoms to Thomas Gallaudet. He inspired MANY organizations – not just the Episcopal Church – to change and accept deaf persons in all levels of life! Truly a faith hero!

  23. Michael's Gravatar Michael
    April 4, 2014 - 9:31 am | Permalink

    I reasoned that since Deacons are called to serve n the world, Harriet was living into her vows. However, Thomas brought millions to the Lord’s table who may have been left adrift through neglect and apathy. I can not imagine being deaf. Further, I can not imagine being deaf, needing God’s love, and being rejected by the church that I dearly love.

    • Madeleine Baier's Gravatar Madeleine Baier
      April 4, 2014 - 10:27 am | Permalink

      Completely agree! Would that every church had someone on their staff proficient in sign language.

  24. Lynda Moses's Gravatar Lynda Moses
    April 4, 2014 - 9:45 am | Permalink

    This time I had trouble deciding, because both worked with those marginalized by society. I use to go to a church that had a sign language interpreter during the service. I learned sign language so I could talk with the folks needing the interpretation. What swung my vote to Harriet, is Mr Gauladet already has a “golden halo” with university in his and his family’s name. Harriet does not. I had to laugh at the tenacity of her – reminded me of the Jesus’ story about the persistant visitor late at night getting what they wanted because of their persistance. I voted for Harriet because of her tenacity.

  25. Rev. Lucy Porter's Gravatar Rev. Lucy Porter
    April 4, 2014 - 9:46 am | Permalink

    Though my disability is visual, and is partly corrected with contact lenses, I feel called to the cause of enabling those with any kind of disability to participate fully in Christian communion and community. Therefore, I make the difficult choice to vote for Thomas Gallaudet.

  26. rellingrw's Gravatar rellingrw
    April 4, 2014 - 9:47 am | Permalink

    I think the picture of Harriet arriving at the Seminoles and becoming appalled at how the Indians were put on display for the tourists marks her as someone who was moved by the Holy Spirit to see what others could not see and act to correct the injustice. This picture has captured my heart today. Would that there were more Harriets in our own day.

  27. JMeehan's Gravatar JMeehan
    April 4, 2014 - 9:50 am | Permalink

    That was a tough one. But had to go with Harriet this round. Both were just amazing though!

  28. Ellen's Gravatar Ellen
    April 4, 2014 - 9:53 am | Permalink

    If only Harriet, or someone inspired to follow in her footsteps, could have been around when MinuteMaid and others created the “Harvest of Shame” in Florida. It might be a better place today. I vote for Harriet although Thomas and his family have also made an important mark.

  29. April 4, 2014 - 9:56 am | Permalink

    “In all works of practical benevolence, zeal must be combined with discretion, and earnestness must be controlled by judgment.” How very Episcopalian!

  30. Anthony Lee's Gravatar Anthony Lee
    April 4, 2014 - 9:57 am | Permalink

    As usual, I’m on the losing side, but as a former special education school bus driver, I have a lot of sympathy for those who work with the handicapped (or, to be politically correct, the “differently abled”), and as a musician, a special sympathy for those who work with the deaf, who have to experience music in ways I cannot imagine.

  31. MaurineRuby's Gravatar MaurineRuby
    April 4, 2014 - 10:01 am | Permalink

    Both of these saints are truly, truly amazing, and I cannot possibly choose one’s saintliness over another. Therefore, I am going to go with Harriet, the little lady with incredible spunk and determination. I am 5 feet tall and tend to shy away from challenges. She inspires me to be, as my mama always encouraged, “dynamite in a small package.”

  32. Grace Cangialosi's Gravatar Grace Cangialosi
    April 4, 2014 - 10:06 am | Permalink

    “Voted for the man because he was a man” interesting, honest comment…
    As former vicar of mountain missions in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia that were founded and served by Deaconesses for decades, I have to vote for Harriet. Thomas has received plenty of fame and accolades over the years, but the Deaconesses, who were incredibly brave and faithful, are largely unsung heroes of the faith.

    • Victor of Sturbridge's Gravatar Victor of Sturbridge
      April 4, 2014 - 1:54 pm | Permalink

      It would be interesting if someone who has the time (I don’t) could go back through the 2014 comments and count how many people said they voted for the woman because she was a woman. It wasn’t only one.

    • Bob Corey's Gravatar Bob Corey
      April 4, 2014 - 8:23 pm | Permalink

      Rev Grace

      I thought the ‘neener neener’ cast my comment as tongue in cheek. Right now, I’m reading Rev. Ribble’s book, having read Ms. Scruby’s and Rev Howell’s. Perhaps when we next cross paths, you can point me to other tales of the mountain missions.

      Nursing Homes Swing! — Bob C

    • Bowman's Gravatar Bowman
      April 4, 2014 - 8:42 pm | Permalink

      Grace, was Phoebe’s Needle near Callaway one of those missions?

  33. Barbara's Gravatar Barbara
    April 4, 2014 - 10:09 am | Permalink

    This is a really tough one. I was leaning toward Harriet, but Gigi’s comment swayed me into the camp of Thomas.

  34. April 4, 2014 - 10:10 am | Permalink

    My choice is Harriet. When women had two strikes against them as far as influence goes she managed to convince others of her concerns and get them to participate. Remarkable women are an inspiration and thanks to Lent Madness I am learning more about them. Go Harriet.

  35. aleathia (dolores)nicholson's Gravatar aleathia (dolores)nicholson
    April 4, 2014 - 10:10 am | Permalink

    As a deacon of nearly 25 years of service, I am in awe of the deaconess. Yet, I feel strongly for the Gallaudets for recognizing the need for respect for and recognition of the deaf, a neglected population, even in our Church. Their service to this “forgotten” population goes beyond belief that anyone could have been so horribly ignored and mistreated. In addition, like many others who taught music for years and served as church musician, my hearing has gotten worse and hearing aids…..well, the least said, the better..never mind $$$ down the drain. Gallaudet today, tomorrow, always.

  36. Nancy Evans's Gravatar Nancy Evans
    April 4, 2014 - 10:21 am | Permalink

    Well I had a VERY hard time with this one. These are just 2 terrific saints!! I think the spitfire deaconess will win but since I just did a presentation for disability students yesterday for our annual Youth Employment Expo I had to go with Thomas Gallaudet. Our oldest son is a person of autism.

  37. April 4, 2014 - 10:22 am | Permalink

    Both reached unreached people, neglected people. But the shame on the Church is greater, to deny Communion to an entire people group because they cannot speak. How incredibly awful! Gallaudet today.

  38. Liz von Dohlen's Gravatar Liz von Dohlen
    April 4, 2014 - 10:22 am | Permalink

    This is really atough one!

  39. Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
    April 4, 2014 - 10:26 am | Permalink

    Though I’m part Cherokee (and please remember Indians are from India not North America) I must vote for Thomas who opened all the sacraments to those who could not speak with their tongues but used their hands instead.

    FYI: If you visit our National Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul up on Mount Saint Alban’s in DC, you’ll find Helen Keller & her teacher Miss Sullivan entombed in the Saint Joseph of Arimathaea Chapel.

    • Margery Becker's Gravatar Margery Becker
      April 4, 2014 - 3:32 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for using the correct name of our cathedral.

      • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
        April 4, 2014 - 8:18 pm | Permalink

        You’re most welcome Margery.

  40. Harlie Youngblood's Gravatar Harlie Youngblood
    April 4, 2014 - 10:28 am | Permalink

    The story of Harriet and George Huntoon reminds me of the Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge. And blessings on her for delivering the Seminoles from the ghastly exploitation they were subjected to.
    However, I voted for Thomas. That people should be denied Communion because they couldn’t speak is shocking. Thomas changed that and that won my vote.

  41. Kathy Schillreff's Gravatar Kathy Schillreff
    April 4, 2014 - 10:33 am | Permalink

    Floridians, especially those of us in the south part of the state must vote for Harriet. She was a feisty, determined missionary who cared for indiginous people in Oklahoma, Alaska, and Florida. What an inspiration

  42. Mary Ann Grennen's Gravatar Mary Ann Grennen
    April 4, 2014 - 10:35 am | Permalink

    Wow, definitely one of the hardest choices so far. I wish they haven’t had to oppose each other. But I had to pick Thomas Gallaudet because his ministry extended across all races to help the deaf. I find that so hard to believe that deaf people were denied the sacraments because they couldn’t “speak”. Just horrible.

  43. Elaine Hood Culver's Gravatar Elaine Hood Culver
    April 4, 2014 - 10:37 am | Permalink

    Give me a break! All right, I know it’s not supposed to be easy. I finally voted for Harriet Bedell because my email signature includes “Luke 18:1-8.” The Unjust Judge never had a chance, and neither did George Huntoon.

  44. Fan Lucy Pope's Gravatar Fan Lucy Pope
    April 4, 2014 - 10:42 am | Permalink

    Must vote for Thomas Gallaudet…. and remind folks that his work goes on… the Episcopal Conference of the Deaf is the national unifying and educating body for Deaf work and is made up of Deaf, deafened, hearing, hard-of-hearing, priests, deacons, lay readers, laity and anyone who is interested.

  45. GWerner's Gravatar GWerner
    April 4, 2014 - 10:57 am | Permalink

    Ginny Doctor & I are talking about Amelia Hill , the “Angel of Allaket ” who overlapped with Harriet in her 30 years of amazing ministry as Deaconess, Nurse, Catechist, Postmistress & everyone’s personal rep of Jesus love.

  46. Chuck's Gravatar Chuck
    April 4, 2014 - 11:00 am | Permalink

    Had to go with Thomas because my deaf sisters and brothers in Christ are constantly excluded so I deeply value anyone who extends a hand in fellowship towards them. People with disabilities are the largest minority in the country and yet also the most overlooked. The church needs to really work on its theology of disability. Go Thomas!

    • Lee's Gravatar Lee
      April 4, 2014 - 12:18 pm | Permalink

      Thank you. Being deaf in a hearing church, I am often left out. Even though the BCP and printed collect/lessons make it easier, I still miss out on sermon. Oh how I wish I can laugh, cry, or whatever with the rest of the parish.

      I must say this,, THANK YOU GALLAUDET, GOD BLESS YOU.

      • Johannas Jordan's Gravatar Johannas Jordan
        April 4, 2014 - 2:47 pm | Permalink

        Lee, When I preach I have copies of my sermon and they are distributed to anyone who needs a visual as well as a spoken text. It means I have to have my sermon ready and in print form, but I think it is worth it. Those who use it are very thankful. And it was a Holy Spirit nudge that give me the idea.

        • Madeleine Baier's Gravatar Madeleine Baier
          April 4, 2014 - 2:50 pm | Permalink

          Johannas, wonderful idea !! I think I’ll pass it along to my rector.
          Peace out,

        • Lee's Gravatar Lee
          April 5, 2014 - 2:34 am | Permalink

          Thank you Johannas. Thank you for sharing your wonderful idea. 🙂

          For some odd reasons, many priests in my diocese tend to give sermon without note. Without notes, I am forced to lip-read. Lip-reading is hard work.. often after so long of focusing, I stop retaining and forget what I lip-read.

          Yes having notes help, but priests rarely follow it exactly. so if there’s something that was suddenly thought of and not in note, I miss something.

          Maybe it’s just that I am sad. My rector is leaving next month. She voices and signs her sermon and I guess I am fearful of wondering how will I fare with new rector who probably can’t sign. I pray that the new rector will do what you do..

  47. Verdery's Gravatar Verdery
    April 4, 2014 - 11:07 am | Permalink

    Difficult choice, indeed. The story of Harriet’s persistence reminded me of tales of Mother Teresa’s. I was ready to vote (again) for her when I read of how Thomas made it possible for a whole segment of the Episcopal Church finally to receive Communion. I agree with Mary Ann Grennen and so voted for Thomas (again).

  48. Rodney's Gravatar Rodney
    April 4, 2014 - 11:13 am | Permalink

    Seems to me that Tom HAD to learn sign language to talk to his Mom. Not exactly a “calling”. Harriet, on the other hand, chose to follow a saintly path.

    • Lee's Gravatar Lee
      April 4, 2014 - 12:40 pm | Permalink

      I wouldn’t say “had to”,, many children of deaf parents learn to sign before they started talking. Later, when they become older, some became bi-lingual (speak and sign). some decide to dump ASL (sad, I know). Both of my children started “talking” when they were about 4 months old. Signing in natural to them.

      Also, Thomas already knew he want to be priest, but his dad encouraged him to be teacher for the deaf instead So what’s to do? He took the best of both professions and became first in USA to preach to the Deaf…. This alone is a calling, the calling to teach about God to the unreachable at the time.

      Thomas started St. Ann Church for the Deaf in NYC. Today, that church is still going strong. 🙂

  49. Adrienne Jacobsen's Gravatar Adrienne Jacobsen
    April 4, 2014 - 11:13 am | Permalink

    having some knowledge of the Mystic Oral School, in Groton, CT., I am in awe of this man who fostered the need for education of the the deaf. while we lived near the school, my eldest Son played basketball for a nearby High School, and this team often played Mystic Oral’s team. It was unbelievable to watch these boys with their ability to communicate with our hearing team. Our boys learned a lot about communication through exposure to these fabulous athletes. Knowing that our Thomas had no connection to this school, I am still compelled to vote for him today.

  50. Michele Quinn's Gravatar Michele Quinn
    April 4, 2014 - 11:16 am | Permalink

    Gallaudet’s work in providing signed services made it possible, not only for the deaf to “hear” the service, but allowed them to be confirmed, receive communion, and become ordained.
    That absolutely got my vote!

  51. Anne E.B.'s Gravatar Anne E.B.
    April 4, 2014 - 11:29 am | Permalink

    Harriet was an inspiring lady, but I had to vote for Thomas today. Go, T!

  52. Gay Jolley's Gravatar Gay Jolley
    April 4, 2014 - 11:30 am | Permalink

    Sometimes, like today, I vote for the underdog. Not that anyone in this race is a loser. On the contrary! All the contestants have already won and certainly do not need our puny approval.

  53. Anne T's Gravatar Anne T
    April 4, 2014 - 11:35 am | Permalink

    Very difficult choice but I went with Thomas, for bringing communion to so many, then and now. May I also put in a pitch for basing future decisions on something other than the gender of the persons involved? We should be past that now, one would hope.

  54. April 4, 2014 - 11:36 am | Permalink

    Harriet Bedell’s spitfire energy makes me feel like I’m standing still — I’m 18 years ordained as a deacon, and no business tycoons have been cowed simply by my appearing at their office!

    But more than that, today Thomas Gallaudet’s active inclusion of people who were denied Communion strikes my heart. One of the earliest duties of deacons, after all (see Acts 6), was to ensure no one was neglected in the table fellowship.

    Thomas Gallaudet’s signing for the deaf was in fact sacramental, not just pointing to the spiritual reality of Communion, but accomplishing it. He’s got my vote today.

  55. Patsy's Gravatar Patsy
    April 4, 2014 - 11:40 am | Permalink

    Very hard to choose. I have a grandson with a hearing impairment and a Native American Great- Grandmother. I chose the deaconness.

  56. Bowman's Gravatar Bowman
    April 4, 2014 - 11:55 am | Permalink

    Easy. Both did good works. Yay. For oppressed people. Hooray. That showed rare empathy and imagination. Excellent.

    I don’t ask for two miracles, but– no soul, no vote– I do ask for an explicit link between faith and action. Gallaudet’s bio supplies the best imaginable evidence of such a link–

    “In all works of practical benevolence, zeal must be combined with discretion, and earnestness must be controlled by judgment. And let us ever be ready to say in our hearts, that if this work, which is so dear to us, is not of God, let it not prosper, but let providential circumstances bring it to a speedy termination. This is looking at our labor with the eye of true Christian philosophy.”

    He’s right about that. Gallaudet.

  57. April 4, 2014 - 11:57 am | Permalink

    Heidi, Thanks for the book recommendations! Adding Angel of the Swamp by Mrya Repko to my list.

  58. Rich's Gravatar Rich
    April 4, 2014 - 12:07 pm | Permalink


  59. Elsa Pressentin's Gravatar Elsa Pressentin
    April 4, 2014 - 12:08 pm | Permalink

    After working for the Episcopal Conference of the Deaf ( both employee and volunteer) and serving as Vicar at Holy Spirit Church of the Deaf … of course I voted for Thomas Gallaudet ! Seriously folks, he is deserving of the Golden Halo! He helped to bring a faith experience to the Deaf in their own language! He encouraged the Episcopal Church to ordain the Deaf as deacons and priests. As a result, the Episcopal Church was the first denomination to do so over a hundred years ago. The first deaf woman was ordained in back in the 1980’s!

    • Martha Frances's Gravatar Martha Frances
      April 5, 2014 - 1:16 am | Permalink

      Glad to see you speak for our deaf family & friends again as you have so often, Elsa. I’m so glad a got to share CREDO with you a decade ago in order to be able to thank you in person for the wonderful Council for the Deaf in our church. May you be ever blessed.

  60. Sonia Suire's Gravatar Sonia Suire
    April 4, 2014 - 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Although Harriet is as deserving, my vote today is for Thomas. His work (and that of his family) gave a voice to the otherwise “silent” deaf community. I’m married to a CODA (“child of deaf adult”) and I have been privy to the challenges my in-laws faced while raising their “hearing” children in a speaking world. My mother in law was born “hearing” in San Antonio, Texas, but somehow a childhood disease took away her hearing/speaking abilities. At the age of 7, from first grade through high school, she attended boarding school at the Texas School for the Deaf, in Austin, as her family was not properly equipped to deal with the special needs of their now deaf child. My father in law was born in New Iberia, Louisiana, to a humble farming family, and he did not attend school until the age of 14, when the authorities compelled his dad to send him to school. They met, married and lived productive lives, and through family support and sheer drive and determination, were able to offer their two hearing children a loving and stable family environment. The movie “Love is Never Silent” beautifully depicts a family’s struggle between the deaf and the hearing worlds during the Depression era; rent it, if interested. Sign Language is an expressive and warm language (I encourage everyone to attend a church service for the deaf if available in your community; it will change your life!), and it has allowed the deaf people to develop their own unique culture and sense of community, and live to their highest potential. While much work needs to be done in terms of educating others that deaf/mute does not equal “dumb;” providing technology access as well as employment and education opportunities, etc., Thomas’ work paved the way for the betterment of a much deserving sector of our society, and for that, I’m very thankful.

  61. Carol's Gravatar Carol
    April 4, 2014 - 12:18 pm | Permalink

    When I read Thomas Gallaudet’s words, ” let us ever be ready to say in our hearts, that if this work, which is so dear to us, is not of God, let it not prosper” that did it for me. So often we think that whatever we want to do must be God’s will, when it so often isn’t.

  62. Patty Reichert's Gravatar Patty Reichert
    April 4, 2014 - 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Have to go with tom. I work with children with special needs and hate to see them denied anything because of their needs.

  63. Christine's Gravatar Christine
    April 4, 2014 - 12:52 pm | Permalink

    For the times when I feel the institution of the Church makes no progress- I will remember that we once denied Eucharist to those who could not speak the Lord’s Prayer. Inch by inch

  64. Alec Clement's Gravatar Alec Clement
    April 4, 2014 - 12:58 pm | Permalink

    They are all so worthy…why not have one halo to fit all

  65. Jan Robitscher's Gravatar Jan Robitscher
    April 4, 2014 - 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Interesting (and sad) that it took another 100 years to ordain the next deaf priest, after Henry Winter Syle. Gallaudet for the Golden Halo!

  66. Glenis Elliott's Gravatar Glenis Elliott
    April 4, 2014 - 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Wow!!!! I re-read the original bios, read today’s piece and read every comment listed. I thought the other pairings were tough, but this is the toughest yet!! After a great deal of thought I find that I must vote for Thomas since an entire world of people was allowed access to something that I take for granted every time I enter our church. Harriet certainly did a lot as well, but Thomas won out in this set. Like so many others, they are both winners no matter what!!

  67. John Lewis's Gravatar John Lewis
    April 4, 2014 - 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I can imagine no worse prison than deafness. To see, but not to hear–to be barred from participating in the rites of the Church, to be in the midst of God’s people yet strangers to the intimacy of communion! Was it not shameful that this exclusion lasted any length of time at all? Who were the deaf in this story, those without hearing or those who had ears but listened not to the brothers and sisters in their midst? Who opened all our ears? Thomas and his “encouraging word” Ephphatha!

  68. Kate Guistolise's Gravatar Kate Guistolise
    April 4, 2014 - 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Thomas Tuthill, Gigi, and others express very eloquently why I was compelled to vote for Thomas. Having been a vocational deacon who was later called to priesthood, I have seen so many deacons do the sort of wonderful, much needed ministry that Harriet did. But Thomas advocated for baptized WITHIN our church who were denied the basic right to receive the sacraments. His work for deaf ordination is admirable – but I can’t get past the injustice of baptizing a baby who can’t make an informed choice to be baptized and then is denied paticipation of the sacramental life of the church that’s supposed to represent and show God’s love. It was Thomas all the way for me

  69. April 4, 2014 - 1:57 pm | Permalink

    As it did for many others yesterday today a quote helped me to decide.

    “There is no reason, therefore why deaf-mute men, fitted to be admitted to priest’s orders, should not minister among their own kind in the language which makes prayer and praise common to those who have assembled (intelligently, notwithstanding their terrible deprivation) around the table of their Lord and Master, the Christian altar, and as they stretch forth their hands so eagerly and earnestly to receive the consecrated elements, and to spiritually feed on the Body and Blood of Christ, to know in their inmost souls the meaning of the encouraging word, ‘Ephphatha.’”

    If you have the ears to hear (spiritually) listen…

  70. Jo's Gravatar Jo
    April 4, 2014 - 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Many of these pair ups were not easy determinations. This one really tough. I finally went with Harriet. A pioneer during her time. In those days a man’s word was acknowledged & adhered to, almost without question. Harriet accomplished much good from one end of the continent to the other. No easy feat in early 1900s. WOW _ of small physical stature rendered dynamite works!

  71. Patricia's Gravatar Patricia
    April 4, 2014 - 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Thomas – In great thankfulness of the Ephphatha ministry of central NY state and the past work of Mother Ginger and current work Fr. Peter. Harriet did much to bring justice to the Seminole people. The work of Thomas Gallaudet and the need of the church to remember the plight of the deaf needs to be remembered and continued. “He made the lame to walk…” Healing does not necessarily mean the deaf have to be able to sense auditory signals, but being able to be part of the larger faith community can also be healing; signing at the church service, making it possible for our deaf brothers and sisters to participate in all aspect of worship and at the Diocesan convention…thanks be to God.

  72. Candace's Gravatar Candace
    April 4, 2014 - 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Harriet – “she knew God.”

  73. Anne C's Gravatar Anne C
    April 4, 2014 - 5:18 pm | Permalink

    That was one the toughest one yet. Harriet for me – I would love to have known her personally – just the thought of her at the bottom of the fire escape made my decision.
    It was her determination and her great love of native people, but most particularly that they knew “she knew God.”

  74. Ginny's Gravatar Ginny
    April 4, 2014 - 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Tough one. Chose Harriet upon further reflection after hearing a presentation by the AZ State Museum on how it was women like Harriet that brought not only God’s love to the Seminoles, but dignity and respect.

    • Carol Justice's Gravatar Carol Justice
      April 4, 2014 - 8:43 pm | Permalink


  75. patricia's Gravatar patricia
    April 4, 2014 - 5:47 pm | Permalink

    must say that i am so disappolnted in today’s result. gallaudet’s work restored humanity to persons considered less than human-people whose only language was dismissed as a joke or a trick. the stalwart deaconess is a truly saintly person but gallaudet won my heart and my vote.

  76. Ann Willis Scott's Gravatar Ann Willis Scott
    April 4, 2014 - 6:37 pm | Permalink

    If I could ‘ave, I would ‘ave…voted for them both. I think I’ll go sing “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God” because these two both are in tune with the Heaven I believe in.

  77. Bob Mayer's Gravatar Bob Mayer
    April 4, 2014 - 7:09 pm | Permalink

    No brainer for me; but wait, I need to replace a battery in one of my hearing aids.

  78. Kathleen's Gravatar Kathleen
    April 4, 2014 - 7:31 pm | Permalink

    While I found most, if not all, of the match ups difficult this season, this was the hardest of all for me. Harriet was a woman with a cause and, like water lapping at a rock, she wore down her opposition gradually, but with certain determination. Having said that, Thomas gets my vote.
    As a three year old, I had chicken pox which broke both ear drums leaving me totally deaf. Fortunately I was old enough to already be speaking. I learned to lip read very well(and apparently still resort to it at times). During that silent period, my parents, my greatest blessing, tutored me, instilled a love of books, and took me to the Sympony for Children so that I would also develop a love of music. Although I couldn’t hear it, I could feel it if I could place my feet on the floor. It was after nearly three years of treatment with no results that a new experimental surgery restored my hearing. The abrupt return to the hearing world was a double edged sword. (Music is still one of my greatest joys – alas, how could Bach be knocked out???!!)
    I thought I knew my church history. I was appalled, shocked and moved to tears to learn that my own church denied sacraments to those unable to hear. In an earlier time frame my surgery would not have existed and I, too, would have been denied confirmation. To be excluded from one of the greatest elements of our faith would be crushing. For righting this massive wrong, Thomas gets my vote. My greatest regards to Harriett as well.

    • Madeleine Baier's Gravatar Madeleine Baier
      April 4, 2014 - 8:21 pm | Permalink

      Hello Kathleen,
      Your story touched my heart in a way that nothing I’ve read here has done.
      This Sunday, when I’m robed and singing with the rest of the St. Andrew’s choir, I will remember you and put forth my best effort!
      Thanks for helping to inspire me.
      Peace out,

  79. Ginny Rodriguez's Gravatar Ginny Rodriguez
    April 4, 2014 - 7:51 pm | Permalink

    Both our saints served special communities for the love of Christ. Thomas’ work was perhaps more visible to the world, while Harriet’s work in remote swamps and backwoods was perhaps not well publicized. I guess it’s the image of the loving and spunky little lady that sways my vote for Harriet Bedell.

  80. Kim's Gravatar Kim
    April 4, 2014 - 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Harriet Bedell served as a Christian spiritual advisor while respecting the culture of Native Americans. She walked a difficult path, yet she showed compassion, respect, and tenacity all along her journey. The mainstream Americans who knew her were impressed with her determination, while Native Americans were influenced by her spirituality (“she knew God”). Bedell wins my vote.

    • Bowman's Gravatar Bowman
      April 4, 2014 - 8:37 pm | Permalink

      Kim, there you are…

      I like your inference there– actually considered one like it– but followed the quote in front of my eyes to Gallaudet. I still see a screenplay in Harriet Bedell.

      Thanks for the link!

  81. George Carlson's Gravatar George Carlson
    April 4, 2014 - 9:03 pm | Permalink

    While I appreciate your comments, they apply equally to Gallaudet. The deaf were no less marginalized in society at the time than Native Americans and had their own culture to be respected as well.

  82. Nenya's Gravatar Nenya
    April 4, 2014 - 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Oh, this is difficult! I voted happily for Harriet last time, and also for Thomas. I’m nearly deaf but I don’t sign–still, Thomas’s work had a ripple effect that has made my life better because it changed how people see deaf people in general. And increased the amount of effort others were willing to put in to communicate with us.

    But I don’t know! Being on the ground as “a small steam engine in dark-blue petticoats, walks fast in and out of the trail camps, speaking to everybody by name, asking about sick babies, bringing some old man a mattress pad for his aching bones…taking somebody to the hospital, or getting work for the boys” —

    Maybe I’ll wait to see which way spouse votes and then vote the other way, lol.

  83. Joan Gundersen's Gravatar Joan Gundersen
    April 5, 2014 - 12:57 am | Permalink

    Harriet moved to Florida in 1933 when she was 57. This “small steam engine in dark-blue petticoats” was doing this mission work at an age when most of her generation were sitting in rockers. She was known to pole a dugout canoe to get to some of those she worked with. She was forced to officially retire in 1943, but she continued her mission work until 1960 when Hurricane Donna destroyed her mission post. She was then 85 years old. The last 9 years of her life were spent at Bishop Gray Inn (an Episcopal retirement home) in Iowa where she “took charge” of the locals. You can’t keep a good woman down.

    • Madeleine Baier's Gravatar Madeleine Baier
      April 5, 2014 - 9:26 am | Permalink

      Can’t keep a good woman down, that’s dadblame right!! My mom worked for the city of Detroit for many years and loved her work so much that she didn’t want to retire.
      When she finally had to, she turned her attention to her 5 children, 10 grandchildren, etc.
      Here’s to you,
      Barbara Baier!
      I love you mom!!

  84. Martha Frances's Gravatar Martha Frances
    April 5, 2014 - 1:04 am | Permalink

    A deaf uncle & aunt taught me to sign as I learned to read & write, & the family table at holidays was a chaos of oral conversation mixed w/ signing so all were included. I had no idea till I took deaf ed as an adult that was not the norm as deaf members of hearing families are often relegated to what they can “pick up” from lip reading & writing short notes, etc. All in our family signed some, & we felt it was a travesty that the only church which provided full service for the deaf were the Southern Baptists. Thanks to the Gallaudet family, the Episcopal church was an early proponent of services for & ministers from those who were deaf. I must cast my lot with dear Thomas despite my affection for Harriet.

  85. Jen E. Ochsner's Gravatar Jen E. Ochsner
    April 6, 2014 - 9:55 am | Permalink

    I haven’t been receiving the Lentmadness posts………is anyone else having trouble?

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