Harriet Bedell vs. Harriet Beecher Stowe

We can't call this the "long-anticipated" Battle of the Harriets since, be honest, did anyone predict Harriet Bedell to make it to the Elate Eight? Nonetheless, we have a match-up rivaling the earlier Battle of the Catherines (of Alexandria vs. of Siena) plus we have a better name: Welcome to Harriet Havoc! Which Harriet will prevail? Well, that's up to you.

To get to this point, upstart Harriet Bedell bested Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky and Thomas Gallaudet while Harriet Beecher Stowe sent James Holly and Alcuin packing. Check out all the previous action and brush up on on your Harriet(s) trivia by clicking the bracket page and scrolling down to see their respective earlier match-ups.

Yesterday in the third hotly contested battle in as many days (it's been quite the week around here!), Phillips Brooks defeated (or should we say flexed his "mite" over) Julia Chester Emery 51% to 49%.

Be sure to watch the daily Archbishops' Update, and if there's someone out there who hasn't liked us on Facebook, get to it. We're pretty sure there are more than 9,762 Facebook subscribers out there. Don't make us contact Zuckerberg to confirm this. Here's the latest from the Archbishops:

Photo courtesy of Florida State Archives

Photo courtesy of Florida State Archives

Harriet Bedell

When you look this photo of Deaconess Harriet Bedell standing before a sign for the Glade Cross Mission, you can be forgiven for reading it as “Episcopal Souvenirs” instead of “Glade Cross Mission-Episcopal.” Considering the tireless work she offered for 27 years as a missionary to the Seminole people in southwest Florida, it’s possible to see that it could be true no matter how you read it.

Marion Nicolay, who offers historical re-enactments as Bedell, explains how the Deaconess worked to ensure that the tribal members benefited from the income derived from their handicrafts. She would take a loan from the Collier Corporation, then pay the tribal members for their work with script from the company’s store. She would sell the crafts in the mission shop to tourists and then pay off the loans and use the excess for tribal support and to buy big items like sewing machines. She paid her $20 monthly rent for the mission buildings out of the $50 monthly salary she received as an Episcopal Church missionary. Eventually the Collier Corporation deeded the property to the church. Nicolay, acting as Bedell in the 50-minute video, quips, “I found that I was the middle man for the tribe. That was never in my deaconess job description.”

During the Depression, Bedell drove her Model A to Washington, D.C. to lobby officials to protect the Seminoles’ handicrafts from being undercut by foreign, cheaply-made knock-offs. She accosted leaders at the Department of Labor (possibly Frances Perkins) and the American Trade Authority. She even showed up at the Japanese Embassy to offer a piece of her mind on the subject of replica goods. Ultimately the U.S. Government put a halt to such imports.


Rare male Seminole doll donated to the Miami Science Museum by Deaconess Harriet Bedell in 1952.

While in D.C. she got the idea to drive up to New York City to pitch the department stores like Saks and Bergdorf Goodman to see if they would place orders for Seminole crafts. As the Depression deepened and the tourists stopped visiting Florida, the orders from New York stores kept some money coming in. The Deaconess had some pretty good ideas.

Bedell’s passion for the people she served was noticed well beyond The Episcopal Church and the local and tribal unnamedcommunities. In 2000 she was named a “Great Floridian” by the Florida Department of State. A commemoration plaque is mounted at the front door of the Museum of the Everglades.

unnamedSt. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Marco Island established the Bedell Chapel to honor her life and ministry. Local artist Hannah Ineson painted this gorgeous mural depicting the Everglades - complete with alligator -- behind the altar of the chapel. (Here’s a crazy Episcopal thing for those of you who like crazy Episcopal things: Hannah’s husband John is the priest who baptized our sons and was a long-time rector of St. Andrew’s in Newcastle, Maine, which, get this, was Frances Perkins’ summer parish).

In 1943 Harriet Bedell turned 68 and was told by the bishop she would have to unnamedretire. She brokered a deal where she would get $50 a month in pension (eerily similar to her salary) and be allowed to carry on with her ministry as long as her health held out. She served for another 17 years and was often quoted as saying, “There is no retirement in the service of the Master.”

Perhaps it was inevitable that someone who worked so hard to improve that lives of the people she served, not least by helping to improve the quality of their handcrafted dolls, would one day have a doll created in her likeness. On display at St. Mark’s is the cross from the Glade Cross Mission that survived Hurricane Donna as well as a doll depicting a Seminole child and the Deaconess herself.

Not for sale.

-- Heidi Shott 

Harriet Beecher Stoweunnamed

I know that one of the problems that plagues you, the Lent Madness voter, is a crippling loneliness -- a fear that you might one day be without Harriet Beecher Stowe. Well, I am here to tell you -- that day will never, ever come, because she is everywhere.

Do you want to always remember her most influential work? Why not wear it around your wrist! 

unnamedHow about as a t-shirt? You can do that too! Every blessed word, printed artfully on a tshirt!   (This is actually an incredibly cool idea, and money goes to promote literacy around the world).

Note: Uncle Tom's Cabin has so much merchandise behind it, that, were you to contemplate it all,  your head would explode. The book was so popular, that for the first time, diverse companies jumped unnamedon its popularity to sell their own products -- from lamps to playing cards to hankerchiefs, etc. If it was possible to stamp Eva and Tom on a thing, it was done, and so Uncle Tom's Cabin was the first mass marketed work of art in Western culture, and all without licensing agreements, so poor Harriet never saw a dime extra. If you're interested, however, there's an excellent roundup here.

unnamedBut this is distracting us from dealing with all things Beecher Stowe. Do you need to mail a strongly worded, yet eloquently phrased letter to your congress person? Harriet postage stamps to the rescue!

When night comes, are you seized by fits of anxious indecision and moral turpitude? Don't worry! You can buy a Harriet Beecher Stowe stuffed doll to counsel you! (and it's on sale!).unnamed

But most of all, you require what everyone does. When you're out with your friends, you need something to show them. Something to hand them, to guide them to a saintly path.

I give you, Harriet Beecher Stowe trading cards Suitable for trading, collecting, or distributing to wayward individuals.

-- Megan Castellan


[poll id="103"]


* indicates required

Recent Posts



101 comments on “Harriet Bedell vs. Harriet Beecher Stowe”

  1. You didn't mention any of her other important missionary work in the west and Alaska.
    Not fair!!!

    1. Joan, those two chapters in her long ministry
      as a deaconess are covered in the first two rounds.
      I couldn't find suitable nuggets from those periods
      to use in this round.

    2. Hi Joan,
      Glad to see I'm not the only one of our clan following. But during the first round I did read about her work in the west and Alaska.

  2. Harriet Bedell for me today. I'm exhausted just reading her story. And so moved by her constant unfailing never ceasing discipleship. Whew!

  3. Harriet Bedell atteneed the New York School for Deaconesses and led a life of service and innovation. She deserves your vote.

    1. Curious bout this school I Googled the program and found that"The courses included Old Testament, New Testament, church history, and theology, which were usually taught by local priests. There were also practical courses in household management, ecclesiastical embroidery, missionary instruction, and the cutting and making of wearing apparel. The school offered summer internships in hospitals or city ministries."
      Bedell's career took her a long way from such subservient preparation, and undoubtedly raised a lot of consciousness, including mine.

  4. In the Battle of the Harriets, this missionary votes for the missionary. Imagine walking into Saks and Bergdorf Goodman in your habit and selling them dolls made by Seminoles in Florida! And that far-fetched tie to Frances Perkins delighted me and made me laugh.

  5. I found myself focusing on more current Saints. It wasn't that those oldies but goodies , Lydia, Basel etc., aren't worthy of consideration but I wanted to learn and be inspired by those who lived , in time, closer to me. I voted for Deaconess Harriet Bedall because I wanted her light to shine forth from under the basket. Everyone knows about Harriet Beecher Stowe but Harriet Bedell?

    1. "I found myself focusing on more current Saints."
      This is actually a common phenomenon, as the human brain is predisposed to favor information, events, etc. closer in time and distance rather than those less recent in time and distance. So, FYI to the SEC, as you contemplate the future of Lenten Bracketology "science".

  6. Do we value the effect of someone's life, or do we value the life itself? Bedell for me.

  7. In honor of the Energizer Bunny we call our Deacon at Church of the Holy Spirit (shout out to Johnine Byrer), I have cast my lot with Harriet Bedell!

  8. You missed another link - they were both Florida girls (or rather women). Harriet Stowe lived for years in Mandarin Florida and was a great tourist attraction herself at $.10.

  9. Sorry, Heidi--but I have to go with my Brunswick woman this morning! Looks like your Harriet is still going to take the day, though.

  10. I'm voting for Harriet Bedell. I've voted for Other Harriet up to this point, but selling those dolls in New York and that beautiful mural got me.

  11. I may have to vote based on Harriet trading cards. Something about that tickled my fancy this morning.

  12. In my lexicon of saints the deaconesses come out on top everytime. They were so feisty, imaginative, and in many ways abandoned by the church as they lived out their baptisms. The heirarchy often treated them like pesky second class citizens. And those habits!! Just for wearing those clothes they deserve sainthood.

  13. Harriet Beecher Stowe became an Episcopalian. She found there the liturgy, music and art which nourished her soul and helped her spiritual journey with and toward Christ, who was always uppermost in her mind.

  14. I knew a woman who had been trained at the New York School for Deaconesses. Feisty doesn't even begin to describe her! So it's easy for me to imagine Harriet B making things happen the way she wanted them to happen for the Seminoles. Besides that, my family lived through Hurricane Donna on the Mississippi Coast when I was a kid.

  15. It is HBS for me today. As an example of her continuing influence, I would offer up the colorful re-enactment of Uncle Tom's Cabin in the musical/movie The King and I.

    1. That's true, Lindsay. And every time I think of HBS's book, I hear the women of the King's court singing "Run, Eliza, run! Run from Simon of Legree!"

    2. Well, I actually danced in the Uncle Tom’s Ballet and I loved it Even had the opportunity to dance the Angel George ( as a promoted understudy!) It was a fascinating experience to look at HBS’s influence on a place so far away. But I am going with HB - for her incredible 'hands on ' service to our Lord and her efforts to preserve indigenous people and their cultures.

    1. Another Peg,
      Thanks for posting this! I have long been of the opinion that "small house of Uncle Thomas" is among the best scenes in this movie.

  16. The T-shirt almost got me, but when I saw they didn't have any William Faulkner shirts, I had to go with Harriet Bedell. In my role as parish Administrator (sort of a Lord High everything else) I push saints through our calendar, newsletter and worship bulletin. This year I have tried to focus on the lesser known, especially women and minorities. So, aside from an amazing life dedicated to service to God and those least able to help themselves, Harriet Bedell gets my vote.

  17. Harriet Bedell sounds like an incredible person, and well worthy of any haloes being handed out. However, this is the kitsch round, and fair or not, the kitsch for HBS is so much better--and I enjoyed the snappy write-up as well. I notice the summary for Harriet Bedell includes much more of her achievements than others in the kitsch round seem to do. I imagine that may be contributing to the current weight of the polls, though of course Bedell is deserving of the votes.

  18. This was a tough decision. However, in the end I had to vote for Harriet...
    Bedell. There was a time when I was feeling possibly called to be a deaconess (yes, there are deaconesses in the United Methodist Church too!) Eventually, God made it clear to me that God was calling me to ordained ministry, which explains the second half of my life. But I have enormous respect for deaconesses, who are increasingly rare as women can now be ordained. Their work has really mattered, and especially that of Harriet Bedell has been extremely important to Native Americans.

  19. Though I voted for Ms. Bedell, it wasn't without images of Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine. Would her kitsch enterprise qualify as Fair Trade goods by today's standards? Something one might find in a 10,000 Villages store?

    As expressed before, I think the HBS simply produced an exceptionally successful example of antebellum miscegenation porn. Not a saint.