Originally trains in the West did not offer meal service, leaving the passengers to fend for themselves at mealtimes. This situation gave rise to exploitation, and passengers were soon victimized by poor food and high prices if they could find anything.
Fred Harvey decided there was a better way, and established a series of restaurants on the Santa Fe lines. Trains would stop, allowing passengers to get a good meal for a reasonable price in clean surroundings.
The Fred Harvey Company would recruit women via newspaper ads from towns and cities across the United States. The women had to be of good moral character, have at least an eighth grade education, display good manner and be neat and articulate to work in his restaurants. In return for employment, the Harvey Girls would agree to a six month contract, agree not to marry and abide by all company rules during the term of employment. If hired, they were given a rail pass to get to their Company chosen destination.
Harvey Girls were the women who brought respectability to the work of waitressing. They left the protection and poverty of home for the opportunity to travel and earn their own way in life while experiencing a bit of adventure.
The Harvey Girl Historical Society at OERM remembers these early women of railroading. If you are interested in the Harvey Girl Historical Society or are a former Harvey Girl, please call the museum at (951) 943-3020.