Geddes, Wilhelmina Margaret (1887–1955), stained-glass artist, was born 25 May 1887 at her maternal grandparents’ home, Drumreilly, Co. Leitrim, eldest of four children of Belfast-born William Geddes, site engineer with the Sligo, Leitrim, and Northern Counties Railway, and Eliza Geddes (née Stafford). While she was still a baby the family returned to Belfast, where her father set up a successful business as a building contractor. She was educated at the Methodist College, Belfast, and at 16 (1903) attended the Belfast School of Art where she became skilled in drawing, watercolour, and graphic design, winning many prizes for her student work. She took summer classes (1911) at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art under the tuition of William Orpen (qv). The sculptor Rosamund Praeger (qv) and the stained-glass artist Beatrice Elvery (qv) brought the attention of Sarah Purser (qv) to a watercolour-and-ink work, ‘Cinderella dressing the ugly sister’, exhibited by Geddes in the Arts and Crafts Society of Ireland fourth exhibition (1910). Impressed, Purser bought the piece and encouraged her to try her hand at stained glass. Her first panel, made in Belfast and titled ‘Geography’, depicted Sir Walter Ralegh leaning on a globe and won her a bronze medal in the national competition (1911). A travel scholarship (1911) enabled her to visit the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, where she drew in the Greek sculpture rooms. She moved to Dublin, and in Purser's Pembroke St. studio made three small panels illustrating the ‘Life of Colman Macduagh’, employing expressive confident lines and strong bold colour, a feature of future works. These panels belonged to Purser and are preserved in the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin. Geddes officially joined An Túr Glaoine, Purser's glass studio in Pembroke St., in July 1912.
Many commissions followed and her first full-scale window was a striking ‘Angel of resurrection’ for Inishmacsaint, Co. Fermanagh (1913). She was well able to execute large-scale works, and her window ‘St Peter preaching to the Jews’ for Rathgar presbyterian church, Dublin, depicts powerful figures, monumental in scale (1914–15). Geddes, Purser, and Catherine O' Brien (qv) went on a trip to see the great cathedrals of Paris, Rouen, and Chartres (1914), and she was inspired by the stained glass of the medieval craftsmen. Other notable commissions included two windows, ‘Faith’ and ‘Hope’, for the Karori crematorium chapel, Wellington, New Zealand (1914), a four-light ‘Parables’ window (1916) for the Presbyterian Assembly Hall, Belfast, and a ‘St Michael’ window (1918) in St Ann’s church, Dawson St., Dublin, which contains small sections with stories depicted in simple direct lines and vivid blocks of colour. She also made a ‘St Michael’, ‘St Gabriel’, and ‘St Raphael’ (the latter destroyed by fire) for All Saints church, Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock, Co. Dublin (1920). Her most prestigious commission, begun in 1917 and installed in 1919, came from the duke of Connaught for a war memorial, a large three-light window in St Bartholomew's church, Ottawa, Canada, to commemorate his Canadian staff killed in the first world war. This work, exhibited in Dublin and London before being sent to its destination in Ottawa, won high praise from the critics both in Europe and Canada. Another work completed around 1920 was ‘The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations’ for St John's church, Malone Road, Belfast.
Suffering constantly from ill-health (including curvature of the spine), she decided to leave An Túr Glaoine (1922). Purser tried to persuade her to stay and take over the running of the studio, but her mind was set on eventually living in London. She moved back to Belfast first, where she held a joint exhibition (1924) with Rosamund Praeger, showing designs for stained-glass works and expressionist style linocuts. There were still some designs to be done for the studio in Dublin, such as a ‘St Brendan’ for the British empire exhibition, Wembley (1924), but Ethel Rhind (qv), a fellow member of the studio and great admirer of Geddes, executed her designs. She moved to London 25 May 1925, where she rented a studio in the Fulham Glass Studio at 11 Lettice St. There she made the three-light ‘St Christopher’ (1926) for Laleham, Middlesex, admired for its technical virtuosity and innovative design.
Geddes was equally accomplished in the graphic arts and needlework design. Five needlework panels designed by her and made by her sister Ethel won prizes at the Aonach Tailtean exhibition (1922) in Dublin and at Wembley. An illustration of a design for an embroidered banner of St Brendan (qv) of Clonfect was published in the Studio (December 1921). The Dublin Magazine (1924) also published illustrations from linocuts made by Geddes. She remained in contact with An Túr Glaoine and made the cover design for its twenty-fifth anniversary booklet (1928). Her stained-glass work continued and she completed an important secular commission for the New Museum and Art Gallery, Belfast (1929); her eight-panelled stair window depicted ‘The fate of the children of Lir’. She was also responsible for the largest rose window in Belgium, twenty-five feet (7.62m) in diameter, in the south transept of the restored cathedral at Ypres. It was commissioned (1934) by the British army and the Royal Air Force as a memorial to Albert I, king of the Belgians. The subject was the glory of God as testified in the ‘Te Deum’. The window was unveiled in 1938. She excelled at her craft, overcoming all artistic and technical difficulties, aiming at simplicity through strength of design and colour. She continued to work until her death in London, 10 August 1955.