Watkins Museum presentation explores famous Harvey Girls

Watkins Museum of History News Release

Contact: Abby Magariel, Education Coordinator, Watkins Museum of History
1047 Massachusetts Street, Lawrence, KS
(785) 841-4109

Presentation Explores Famous Harvey Girls

Lawrence – The Watkins Museum, in conjunction with Lawrence Parks and Recreation and the Lawrence Public Library, will host The Harvey Girls, a presentation and discussion by Michaeline Chance-Reay, on Tuesday, April 5 at 6:30 p.m., at the Watkins, 1047 Massachusetts Street, Lawrence. Members of the community are invited to attend the free program. Contact the Watkins at (785) 841-4109 for more information. The program is made possible by the Kansas Humanities Council.

Dr. Chance-Reay appears at the Watkins as part of Lawrence Parks and Recreation’s Lifelong Recreation class, Harvey Girls and Kansas. The series of classes explores the story of British-born Fred Harvey, whose restaurants changed the experience of travel in the American West. The series begins March 22, and includes a Harvey House lunch at Topeka’s Great Overland Station. Enrollment in the class is not necessary to attend Dr. Chance-Reay’s program.

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 Railroad line. Preferring the term “Harvey Girl” to waitress, he recruited single women to work at his restaurants that graudually 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 courses in 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 nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who wanted jobs or careers outside of the home had few choices,” said Chance-Reay, “but the Harvey Company offered unique opportunites. It was demanding work but also offered a decent salary in a protected environment, in addition to travel and adventure.”

“The Harvey Girls” is part of the Kansas Humanities Council’s Kansas Stories Speakers Bureau, featuring presentations and discussions that examine our shared human experience—our innovations, culture, heritage, and conflicts. 

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