Friday, January 8, 2021

Harriet Bedell

On January 8, the Church remembers Harriet Bedell, Deaconess and Missionary, 1969. This is her biographical sketch from A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Harriet Bedell was born in Buffalo, New York, on March 19, 1875.
Inspired by an Episcopal missionary, she enrolled as a student at the
New York Training School for Deaconesses, where she was instructed
in religion, missions, teaching, and hygiene. She then became a
missionary-teacher among the Cheyenne at the Whirlwind Mission in
Oklahoma. In 1916, Bedell was sent to Stevens Village, Alaska, where
she was finally set apart as a deaconess in 1922. She also served as a
teacher and nurse at St. John’s in the Wilderness at Allakaket, just 40
miles south of the Arctic Circle, from which she sometimes traveled
by dogsled to remote villages. During her last years in Alaska, Bedell
opened a boarding school.

In 1932, hearing about the plight of the Seminoles in Florida, Bedell
used her own salary to reopen a mission among the Mikasuki Indians.
There, she worked to revive some of their traditional crafts: dollmaking,
basket-weaving, and intricate patchwork designs. The arts
and crafts store that they established to sell their handicrafts improved
the economy of the Blades Cross Mission. Though officially forced
to retire at age 63, Bedell continued her ministry of health care,
education, and economic empowerment until 1960 when Hurricane
Donna wiped out her mission.

Active into her eighties, Deaconess Bedell drove an average of 20,000
miles per year during her ministry. She was one of the most popular
writers in the national Episcopal mission periodical, The Spirit of
Missions. Bedell won the respect of indigenous people through her
compassion and respect for their way of life and beliefs. While active
in ministry among the Cheyenne, she was eventually adopted into the
tribe and given the name “Bird Woman.” The Diocese of Southwest
Florida has long celebrated Harriet Bedell Day on January 8, the
anniversary of her death in 1969.

This is the collect for her day.

Holy God, you chose your faithful servant Harriett
Bedell to exercise the ministry of deaconess and to
be a missionary among indigenous peoples: Fill us
with compassion and respect for all people, and
empower us for the work of ministry throughout
the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen.