McCRACKEN — McCracken Public Library will host “The Harvey Girls,” a presentation and discussion by Michaeline Chance-Reay at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29, at McCracken City Building, 402 1st Street. The free program is made possible by Humanities Kansas. A soup supper will follow the program. Free will donations accepted.
The Harvey House chain of restaurants got its start in Topeka when Fred Harvey opened a café for people traveling the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway. Preferring the term “Harvey Girl” to waitress, he recruited single women to work at his restaurants that gradually sprang up all the way to California and Texas. This presentation explores the job duties and working conditions of Harvey Girls from 1876 to the early 1950s.
Michaeline Chance-Reay teaches women’s studies and education at Kansas State University. Her current research focuses on the Harvey Girls and historic sites on the K-State campus, especially those related to women.
“Women in the 19th and early 20th centuries who wanted jobs or careers outside of the home had few choices,” said Chance-Reay. “But the Harvey Company offered unique opportunities. It was demanding work but it provided a decent salary in a protected environment, in addition to travel and adventure.”
“The Harvey Girls” is part of Humanities Kansas’s Movement of Ideas Speakers Bureau, featuring presentations and workshops designed to share stories that inspire, spark conversations that inform, and generate insights that strengthen civic engagement.