Bedell, Harriet M. (1875–1969)

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Bedell, Harriet M. (1875–1969)

Protestant Episcopal deacon, known as the "white sister" of the Florida Seminole Indians. Born in Grand Island, New York, on March 19, 1875; died in Davenport, Florida, in 1969; daughter and one of three children of Horace Ira and Louisa Sophia (Oberist) Bedell; graduated, State Normal School, Buffalo, in 1894.

A devoutly religious, adventurous young woman, Harriet Bedell left her teaching position in Buffalo, New York, to train as a mission teacher through the Protestant Episcopal Church. She would spend the remainder of her life as a missionary in service of the Cheyenne Indians of northwestern Oklahoma, the Alaskan Indians in the remote Alaskan Arctic Circle, and the Mikasuki Seminole Indians of Florida. Known affectionately as "White sister" to the Seminoles, Bedell tended to the medical and educational needs of Indian children, as well as to the practical and spiritual concerns of Indian communities struggling to assimilate. She traveled miles on horseback in Oklahoma, drove a dog team across isolated Alaskan terrain, and encountered snake- and alligator-infested waters in the swamps of the Florida Everglades, to tend to the sick and needy and sow her credo: "The needs of a hungry soul can best be met in a sound body." Moving to Davenport, Florida, in 1960, she continued her work with church and civic groups well into her 80s, even after losing her world-renowned Glade Cross Mission House and most of her personal possessions to Hurricane Donna.


Hartley, William and Ellen Hartley. A Woman Set Apart: The Remarkable Life of Harriet Bedell. NY: Dodd, Mead, 1963.

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