Saturday, December 13, 2008

Who were the Harvey Girls?

Wanted: Young women, 18 to 30 years of age, of good moral character, attractive and intelligent , as waitresses in the Harvey Eating Houses on the Santa Fe Railway in the West. Good wages with room and meals furnished. Liberal tips customary. Experience not necessary.

What an opportunity! 100,000 girls and young women went to work for Fred Harvey between the 1880s and 1950s in the Harvey House restaurants established along the rail line to provide good, wholesome meals to weary travelers. They typically worked a 12 hour day, serving meals to an entire train load of people in 30 minutes. They came from farms, tiny towns, and big cities in the East. Some came to escape arranged marriages, some for adventure, others for necessary employment, but all had in common: they were hard-working, independent women who became an important part of American history. They found employment at a time when there were very few jobs considered suitable for women of polite society. They helped open the West by settling in the newly established towns springing up along the Old Santa Fe Trail, then the route of the Santa Fe Railway.

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