The Harvey Girls at the Harvey House restaurants became, perhaps, the most lasting legacy of the Fred Harvey story. These young women, age 18 to 30, brightened the Harvey House restaurants with cheerfulness and impeccable service, and in the process became a national legend.
In the beginning, they brought a civilizing influence and charm to the rough and barren Southwest frontier. Some feel that Fred Harvey and his company not only promoted opportunities in the workplace for women, but were among the first companies to promote cultural diversity in the workplace. Recruited from the North, South, and middle sections of the country, Harvey Girls signed on to work as waitresses in exchange for a modest salary plus tips, lodged in dormitories, and sported those distinctive black and white uniforms.
The Harvey Girls in Books and Film
In completing an online search for “The Harvey Girls”, you’ll find a good number of books, documentaries, and Hollywood films that celebrate the lives of these 100,000 women who left their homes for the rugged unknown of the West. Some examples:
The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West. A book by Lesley Poling-Kempes
The Harvey Girls: The Women Who Civilized the West. A book by Juddi Morris
The Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound. A documentary produced/directed by Katrina Parks
The Harvey Girls. A 1946 MGM star-studded movie featuring Judy Garland.
At the National Fred Harvey Museum
Although the Fred Harvey Company faded into history in the 1960s, there are women today who proudly claim they were Harvey Girls. And the National Fred Harvey Museum in Leavenworth continues to receive and process inquiries about individuals who were once Harvey Girls.
National Fred Harvey Museum volunteers maintain two lists:
One of the known Harvey Girls
One of employees who worked for the Fred Harvey Company
We also invite employees of the former AT&SF Railroad to list themselves, since the railroad was so intimately involved with the Harvey operations.
We encourage anyone with information about the Harvey Girls or others to contribute to this endeavor. If you have additional information or can provide more specific information for individuals who are listed, please submit this data and it will be included in the next update.
Harvey Girl List
To view the list, please see the attached PDFs. We’d like to thank Lesley Poling-Kempes and Juddi Morris (the two authors whose books we profiled above) for allowing us to incorporate the Harvey Girls lists that they include in their respective books. Cheers!)