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


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

  1. Hmm. Perhaps because I'm a Baptist, I say both these women were saved Christians and both, in serving others, served the Lord. Thus both are saints without any votes from humans but by the Lord's definition in His Word. God bless their works which are His and God bless the inspirational memories of the two of them. May those recollections inspire and uplift someone learning of their endeavors to do the same ...in His service. Amen.

  2. Glad to see so many appreciate the work of HB, whose life story is kept alive by the good folks at St. Mark's on Marco Island.

  3. As written by the celebrity blogger for a bit more kitsch, I'd give the nod to HBS, but I just love HB's story, so to help justify my choice in the mad decision making process, some links I've found. The name meanings is perhaps kitschy-esque, but all interesting 🙂

    Middle school student report with portrait and garden dedication, http://www.xaviercortada.com/?page=FLOR500garden389

    Name meanings and origins as well as learning Harriet is the 759th name in the US, Bedell the 5601st, http://names.whitepages.com/Harriet/Bedell

    Featured in the “Saints Are Us” column, St. Dunstan’s Weekly Highlights, http://hosted-p0.vresp.com/527001/9704d3ac12/ARCHIVE

    The “Bedell Collection,” 126 prints, http://www.floridamemory.com/photographiccollection/collections/?id=2

  4. Bob.....antebellum miscegenation porn? Seriously? Uncle Tom's Cabin was, and remains, a wonderful commentary on the evils of slavery and if the delivery was a bit unrefined, well, good for Ms. Beecher Stowe for not sugar coating it.

  5. Oh my, what a toughie!!!! I voted for each of the ladies before and I realize that they are both great women, but this time my vote will go with Harriet Bedell, but I will not be upset if Harriet B. Stowe takes it!!

  6. I'm totally charmed by Harriet Bedell (who I'd never even heard of before Lent 2014!). BTW, I don't think many people name their daughters Harriet(t) these days -- maybe this year, and this round of Harriet Havoc, will cause moms across America to reconsider and name their daughter Harriet(t)! One could do a lot worse!

  7. In honor of all my deacon and deaconess friends, I had to vote for Deaconess Harriet. That and also her concern for the Native Americans, many of whom still need our help.

  8. First let me say I am enjoying Lentmadness very much , what a great idea. However I feel the "bios" used today to describe the two Harriets was heavily skewed in favor of Bedell. You go to great length to describe all her efforts of behalf of the Seminole people and reduce Stowe to a series of trinkets without ever mentioning her accomplishments that changed history forever. Very disappointed in the way this was promoted today.......

    1. Emily, if this is your first year of Madness, you might not know this particular round of the competition is pretty light-hearted, illuminating some of the silly products saints have inspired, or quirky things one might not know about the saint. For HBS, there is a wealth of merchandise. For HB, since her life inspired less marketing in and of itself, the blogger focused on HB's own quirky marketing efforts, giving us the marvelous image of a sophisticated Bergdorf's buyer studying a handcrafted doll as the little Deaconess sat smiling. If you look back at the write-ups and comments for previous rounds, you find ample material about the serious good works of both women. At this point in the Madness, frivolity is the order of the day.

  9. Almost voted for Harriet Beecher Stowe for her work in helping us recognize that those of African descent are people (and because she's trailing at this point), but had to go for Harriet Bedell, partly for her work with others who were (and maybe still are) not regarded as people, partly for her feistiness, and partly for the possible connection with Frances Perkins.
    There's *gotta* be a skit in there someplace!

  10. Oh, dear. So many comments rightfully directed towards the accomplishments of both these women. And here I am stuck with the misuse of the word "script". Script is something you write, a play or a speech. "Scrip" is also written but is used in place of cash. Harriet Bedell purchased scrip with her loan funds.

  11. Just a bit of pedantic correction, without revealing my vote. Re: HB. What she acquired for the people was SCRIP. "Script" is what actors get to know what their lines are. "Scrip" is a substitute for cash. Sorry. I get this way sometimes.

    1. Forgive the typo. I was cranking this out and
      trying to get to a meeting for my real job. : )

      1. Perhaps an endowed chair in hagiography waits for you somewhere?

        After all of your labors in that field, you might appreciate this thought from Rowan Williams--

        ‘Just as, in relation to musical education, I might be reasonably sure of being able to identify what a musically educated person is like. I would know what sort of skills to look for and listen for in that case. Now I want to suggest that a theologically educated person is somebody who has acquired the skill of reading the world, reading and interpreting the world, in the context and framework of Christian belief and Christian worship … That means that a theologically educated person is not someone who simply knows a great deal about the Bible or history of doctrine but somebody who is able to engage in some quite risky and innovative interpretation, and who is able, if I can put it this way, to recognise holy lives. Because I think that the skill that belongs to being a theologically educated person is a very significant part – the skill of knowing what an exemplary life looks like lived in the context of doctrine and worship’.

        The rest of his talk is here-- http://rowanwilliams.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/1847/cefacs-lecture-birmingham-centre-for-anglican-communion-studies

  12. Another toss-up: one who fought for Native Americans against one who fought (or wrote) for black slaves. I'll go with Bedell (who seems to be winning in a landslide) because of the greater scope of her work.

  13. Bedell it is! If you'd like to see a picture of authentic Seminole dolls straight from the deaconesses in Illinois, somebody tell me how to get a picture on this site. Please! I will take my dolls out of the case, photograph them and send the photo on it way.

    1. I am not to be deterred! I posted a photo of my Seminole dolls on the Lent Madness Facebook page. Next year, can we have a little camera icon on this page, too -- please and thank you?

  14. The video won me over, it's the Deaconess for me! I was impressed by her ability to respect the beliefs of native peoples--the story about the native funeral and the version of the 23rd psalm was delightful. Now if there had been a Harriett B Stowe video it might have been a tougher call...

  15. SEC: Alright, already with the Facebook liking. I wouldn't touch Facebook with 10G phone or a 10-terabyte hard-drive. It is a great way to lose friends and create enemies of your loved ones, and it is possible to be highly connected to one's world without it. And what do Facebook likes really mean, anyway? Has nobody read "The Circle" by Dave Eggers? I understand about using new forms of media to spread the news about God's love, but there is a point of highly nauseated oversaturation with any appeal. Sometimes, if you just leave a topic alone for a bit, people start to tune in again, and do what you are asking.

    P.S. Leaning toward Harriet Beecher Stowe, as I usually prefer to honor the older saints first. They've waited longer.

  16. Another unusual matchup appears to be coming our way...two deaconesses pitted against one another in the Final Four.

  17. This really was the hardest one for me to decide. I stuck with Stowe, mainly because when I made out my bracket pre-madness, I had her all the way to the end, battling it out with my pick for the Golden Halo (already sadly gone from competition) Aelred. Of course, Aelred had a tough opponent in the first round (Thomas Merton). The bracket makers are quite the sadistic lot!!

  18. My take-away from today's battle is that Harriet Bedell was an incredible negotiator - the deal with the Collier corporation which eventually deeded land to the mission, the deal with high end NY shops, and best of all the pension deal that enabled her to serve for another 17 years! What a role model!

  19. I admire HBS, but I am so delighted that Harriet Bedell is getting recognized! What an amazing life of service.

  20. As an Episcopal deacon approaching my 25th ordination anniversary, I appreciate the comment: " IN the church, not AT the church." Bedell was a role model for deacons although I don't know a single. solitary one who could match her devotion, energy, and brains for outwitting authorities in order to get what she needed for the Seminoles and all others she served in service to God. As I am 77 today, I am thankful to still be on this side of the dirt and still serving the Church in His Name. Thanks be to God...and the SEC for Lent Madness !

    1. We only got the news when your birthday was half over :--(

      No... wait!-- that entitles you to extra birthday time (and more cake and ice cream ;--) tomorrow!

      Happy Birthday, aleathia!

      God grant you many blessed years!

  21. Harriet Bedell!!
    Unless you have visited the Everglades, particularly in the pre-constuction boom that we are now in, its hard to fathom the work the Deaconess did.

  22. Harriet Bedell.
    I am happy to tell
    She gets my ballot today.
    For Native American's right
    She put up a fight
    In a truly loving way.

    (Bad poetry: my forte. Sorry.)

  23. I voted for Harriet Beecher Stowe primarily because I know more about the pre-Civil War and Civil War history of slavery and its consequences. But I am also interested in learning more about the history of relationships with Native American groups in this country. My knowledge in that area is not what I would like it to be. What I do know is that it is an area of history that is too often glossed over, oversimplified, and otherwise distorted to serve the political agendas of various groups. That is obviously not very helpful in trying to learn to live with all men and women as brothers and sisters. I wish I knew a lot more!

    As usual I did not find the kitsch for the two Harriets as persuasive either way. I had to pick one, so I did, but I could just as easily picked the other. I really don't have any "sage" comments on why I picked Harriet Beecher Stowe, as I said, I know a little bit more about the impact of her book and the whole history of slavery. I am well aware that interactions with the Seminole are among the saddest chapters in our history, but my knowledge is very sketchy. I have read some excellent books on the history of the Plains tribes and those of the Southwest. One of the best books I have read on the history of newcomers and their relationships with Native Americans was "Mayflower" which is a history of the Pilgrims and the Plymouth colony that follows that history through King Philip's War. My 10th Great Grandfather was William Brewster who was originally the religious leader of the Plymouth Colony. He befriended Squanto and other Native Americans in the area and felt that both the Pilgrims and the Native Americans in the area could learn from each other. Unfortunately, Miles Standish and William Bradford were in favor of exterminating the Native American populations and they eventually allied themselves with like-minded individuals in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and that led to King Philip's War (King Philip was a chieftain of one of the tribes who tried to organize all of the Native American groups in the Massachusetts area). My ancestor was so vehemently against this direction that he left the Plymouth Colony, although he remained nearby to be around to continue to stick his two-cents worth in.

    Anyway, I digress, I could have voted for either Harriet, but I picked one. I wish I had a better reason!

    1. Thanks for book recommendation! May I suggest the journals of John and William Bartram, naturalists who also describe encounters with native peoples. If you're in Philadelphia, visit Bartram Garden. Amazing plant collection!

  24. Both Harriets are great representatives of faithful women of their times who lived within the structures of their societies yet challenged them. I think I have to go with Bedell this time.

  25. Actually (and honestly!), I DID have Harriet Bedell in the Elate Eight. To be fair, that's about the only thing I've been right about up until now, though.