GEDDIE, CHARLOTTE ANNE (Harrington), Presbyterian church worker and editor; b. c. 1840 in Prince Edward Island, daughter of John Geddie* and Charlotte Lenora Harrington MacDonald; m. 21 Sept. 1865 William Harris Harrington in Pictou, N.S., and they had three daughters and one son; d. 7 March 1906 in Halifax.
Charlotte Anne Geddie’s rural childhood in Cavendish, P.E.I., was transformed when in 1846 her parents departed with their two small children for missionary work in the New Hebrides. The family stopped in Samoa en route, and much to her chagrin she was left behind there in 1848, to be sent to England for schooling. Her mother’s letters record that Charlotte found this separation very difficult. Her parents, however, did not wish to raise their daughter in the “polluted atmosphere” of the New Hebrides. She attended the Walthamstow Institution in Essex, a boarding-school for the daughters of missionaries.
In 1856 Charlotte left England and the following year joined her parents in the New Hebrides at Aneityum (Anatom), anxious to undertake missionary work. After an eight-year absence, she did not recognize her parents and saw her brother John for the first time. Her father fixed up a little schoolroom, where she taught her brother and sister. She probably also helped Mrs Geddie to teach the native women. In 1859 she was obliged to accompany her brother and sister to school in Nova Scotia, where they were joined in 1864 by their parents on furlough, a united family for the first time.
The following year Charlotte married William Harris Harrington, a Halifax merchant, and thus she did not accompany her parents when they returned to the mission field in 1866. Her decision to settle down may have reflected a desire to compensate for the disruptions of her youth. With her husband she enjoyed a comfortable existence in the south end of Halifax. After his death in 1902, she moved to a home in the city’s north end, where she lived with her daughters Emily and Lucy until her own demise.
Like many bourgeois women in the 19th century with leisure time, Mrs Harrington became involved in the church and in voluntary organizations. Admitted to Poplar Grove Presbyterian Church as a certified member in 1867, she transferred to the Fort Massey church four years later. She was secretary (1887) and president (1893) of the Mayflower Mission Band and vice-president of the Fort Massey auxiliary of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society in 1889–90. She had been on the committee of the Halifax WFMS when it was organized in 1876 and was made a life member in 1902. In 1895 she became editor of the Message, the monthly organ of the WFMS, and under her it greatly expanded in size and distribution, so that she was eventually given a modest monthly remuneration for her services.
Rather than seeing these extra-household activities as a threat to family life, Mrs Harrington argued that setting the heart on “winning souls for the Master” would improve it; if “good is done in the family life, will it not have an influence that shall grow and flourish outside the home?” By joining the missionary society, women like her not only acquired administrative and organizational talents, but also attained a sense of achievement and belonging, which came from sacrificing to a larger cause. Almost as a justification for not returning to the mission field herself, she once commented, “We cannot all be shining lights; but those who are not can stand and wait. And in waiting they are serving just as truly in the Master’s eye as those doing the glad work.”
After Charlotte Geddie Harrington’s death in 1906 a contemporary remarked, “Mrs. Harrington was respected and esteemed for her own worth – her intelligence, her zeal in well doing, the ardor with which she gave herself to the promotion of the mission work of the church.” These efforts were part of the expansion of female roles in 19th-century Canadian society. Perhaps her greatest personal achievement was the successful melding of the public and private spheres, manifest in her mission work and in an unbroken family life, which had been impossible for her missionary parents.
Halifax County Court of Probate (Halifax), Wills, 13 (mfm. at PANS). NA, RG 31, C1, 1871, 1881, 1891, Halifax (mfm. at PANS). PANS, Churches, Fort Massey Presbyterian/United (Halifax), annual reports, 1875–1906; communion roll and reg., 1894–98, 1900–5; pew holders and envelope nos., 1882–96 (mfm.); Park Street Presbyterian (Halifax), Poplar Grove Church records, communicants’ roll-book, 1843–68; reg. of communicants, 1869–79 (mfm.). Acadian Recorder, 8 March 1906. Halifax Herald, 9 June 1902, 8 March 1906. Morning Chronicle (Halifax), 25 Sept. 1865. Presbyterian Witness, 17 March 1906. Directory, Halifax, 1869–1906. C. T. Harrington, A general history of the Harrington, DeWolfe, and Tremaine families, with a genealogical record of 1643 to 1938 (Newton, Mass., 1938). Letters of Charlotte Geddie and Charlotte Geddie Harrington . . . (Truro, N.S., [1908?]). Message (Halifax), 1896–1907. R. S. Miller, Misi Gete: John Geddie, pioneer missionary to the New Hebrides (Launceston, Australia, 1975). Wendy Mitchinson, “Canadian women and church missionary societies in the nineteenth century: a step towards independence,” Atlantis (Wolfville, N.S.), 2 (1977), no.2: 57–75. George Patterson, Missionary life among the cannibals: being the life of the Rev. John Geddie . . . (Toronto, 1882). Presbyterian Church in Canada (Eastern Division), Fifty years of woman’s missionary work (n.p., n.d.). D. M. Sinclair, Fort Massey church, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1871–1971: a century of witness ([Halifax, 1971]). V. J. Strong-Boag, The parliament of women: the National Council of Women of Canada, 1893–1929 (Ottawa, 1976). The Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Presbyterian Church in Canada (Eastern Division), 1876–1926 (Truro, n.d.).