Harriet Mary Bedell was born on March 19, 1875, in Buffalo, New York, to Horace Ira Bedell and Louisa Sophia Oberist. Bedell was confirmed in the Episcopalian church and graduated from Normal School in 1894. Following graduation, Bedell worked as a school teacher before deciding to enroll in the New York City Training School for Deaconesses in 1906. She also spent several months in Buffalo at a local hospital learning the rudiments of nursing. Between 1907 and 1916 Bedell was sent to the Whirlwind mission in Blaine County, Oklahoma. There, she worked as a missionary-teacher among the Cheyenne alongside Deacon Oakerhater (Cheyenne). During her time in Oklahoma Bedell contracted Tuberculosis and spent some time in Denver, Colorado recovering. By 1916 plans were made to close the Mission and Bedell was told she was to be transferred to Alaska where her teaching skills were needed. She accepted the remote post in Stevens Village, Alaska, among the Gwich'in (Kutchin) people. In 1922, Bedell left Alaska briefly to be officially ordained as a Deaconess in Portland, Oregon. During her time in Alaska, Bedell also established a boarding school in nearby Tanana but due to the stock market crash of 1929 and the scarcity of funds the boarding facility was unable to remain open. In 1931, following an unsuccessful trip to Buffalo to try and raise money, it was decided that there was no reason for Bedell to return to Alaska.
In 1933, Bedell travelled to Florida by invitation to speak and was appalled by the living conditions she witnessed among the Seminole in southern Florida. Bedell worked to reopen the Glade Cross Mission in Everglades City which had closed in 1914 as well as opening a new Mission in Collier City. In addition to focusing on health and education, Bedell encouraged the Seminole women she worked with to revive traditional doll-making, basket-weaving and intricate patchwork designs. Bedell worked in South Florida until 1960 when hurricane Donna destroyed her home and the Glade Cross Mission and she decided to retire. Bedell lived to be 94 and spent her final years at the Bishop Gray Inn in Davenport, Florida until her death on January 8, 1969. In the year 2000 Bedell was named a "Great Floridian" and in the diocese of Southwest Florida celebrate Harriet Bedell Day annually on January 8th.