The Harvey Girls is the collective term given to those women who worked for the Fred Harvey chain of restaurants, hotels, and dining cars in the southwest. These businesses were established along the line of the AT&SF railroad, known as the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. The line ran through Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and finally California. At first, meal service was very rudimentary along these lines, some trips which lasted for several days. In some cases passengers had to bring their own food. Fred Harvey thought something better could be offered these train travelers. He established the first restaurant, which was a big hit.
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He had a deal with the railroad and never looked back. The guaranteed
customers helped his business, and his business helped make train travel more attractive to tourists.
He had very strict requirements for all his girls, as to dress,
professional performance, living areas, and behavior toward other
employees. But the service was exceptional, the food unlike anything that could be had within miles, and he was always very accommodating. During the depression years when desperate people headed to California looking for jobs, now Fred Harvey Jr., looked the other way when hobos hitched a ride. He often approved free meals for the destitute particularly those with children. Many of the women got jobs to help support the family. Others were just looking for adventure. Most were well respected because of the Harvey system, during a time when working women, particularly waitresses,
were generally considered to be low class. This is a very interesting book about women in a particular profession who entered the work force, some staying, some not, some leading on to other jobs, some going on to college, some getting married, and some staying in the Harvey system.