Osage City library presentation explores work of Harvey Girls

The Friends of the Osage City Public Library will host “The Harvey Girls’ Service with Style”, a presentation and discussion by Michaeline Chance-Reay at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1, at the Osage City Public Library, 515 Main St., Osage City. Members of the community are invited to attend the free program.

In 19th-century Kansas, single women had few choices when it came to reputable work. Chance-Reay will discuss the professional waitress positions available in the Harvey House chain of restaurants along the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad lines from 1876 to the early 1950s. She will also explore the job duties, pay scales, and working conditions of Harvey Girls compared with other occupations available for single women during that time period.

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.

“I became interested in the Harvey Girls when I visited the Grand Canyon and saw their exhibit,” Chance-Reay said. “How wonderful it was to discover ‘it all started in Topeka’ with Fred Harvey’s restaurant.  The real success of the Harvey Company can be attributed not only to the food offered, but also to the over 100,000 lovely women employees who guaranteed repeat customers and made history.”

“The Harvey Girls’ Service with Style” is part of the Kansas Humanities Council’s The Way We Worked Speakers Bureau, featuring presentations and discussions examining the theme of work and working in Kansas and how these stories help define us.

Contact the Osage City Public Library at 785-528-3727 for more information about the “The Harvey Girls’ Service with Style”.

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