In the 1880s, the Great American West was a wild and untamed land. In fact, some said that there were “no ladies west of Dodge City and no women west of Albuquerque.” Enter entrepreneur Fred Harvey, who took note of the deplorable services for passengers along the booming Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and, in response, established the Harvey House chain of restaurants and hotels. For the first time, weary travelers along the ATSF could stay in safe and clean rooms and enjoy tasty meals at reasonable prices throughout their journey west.
Harvey initially hired men to staff his properties, but his servers turned out to be a rough and unruly crew, so he had a brainstorm: Why not hire women? He placed ads in newspapers across the Midwest and East, looking for bright, articulate, attractive young women who would be hired as servers in his restaurants. “Harvey Girls” were required to have an eighth grade education and be of “good moral character.” The hiring process was competitive, but for ladies who made the cut, the rewards were substantial. Initially, they could earn up to $17.50 per month, plus free room, board, and uniforms – a generous salary, particularly for a woman, in those days. But also, they entered a new world of adventure, independence, and not infrequently romance.
Cheryl St. John’s historical Harvey Girls series—now available in a Book Bundle curated by H&H blogger Wendy the Super Librarian!—transports readers back to those days with three novels about the women who worked at the Arcade, a Harvey House property in Newton, Kansas. All three are well worth the attention of any reader of historical romance.
[Let's take a look at the series ...]