Friday, February 17

The Harvey Girls

We saw lots of women dressed as Harvey Girls while on the Grand Canyon Railway and at the Bright Angel Lodge.

Fred Harvey began using a female serving staff in 1883 when he became unhappy with his male staff who often carried firearms to intimidate customers. He sought out single, well-mannered, and educated American ladies, and placed ads in newspapers throughout the East and Midwest for "white, young women, 18 to 30 years of age, of good character, attractive and intelligent." The girls were paid $17.50 a month (approximately $411 in today's terms) to start, plus room, board, and tips, a generous income by the standards of the time. 

The women were subjected to a strict 10 p.m. curfew, administered by a senior Harvey Girl who assumed the role and responsibilities of house mother. The official starched black and white uniform (which was designed to diminish the female physique) consisted of a skirt that hung no more than eight inches off the floor, "Elsie" collars, opaque black stockings, and black shoes.

Their hair was restrained in a net and tied with a regulation white ribbon. Makeup of any sort was absolutely prohibited, as was chewing gum while on duty. Harvey Girls were required into a one-year employment contract, and forfeited half their base pay if they failed to complete the term of service. Marriage was the most common reason for a girl to terminate her employment. 

The company and its employees successfully brought new higher standards of both civility and dining to a region widely regarded in the era as "the Wild West." Harvey Girls are said to have helped to "civilize the American Southwest."

The popularity of the Harvey Girls grew even stronger in 1946, when Judy Garland starred in the film version of Samuel Hopkins Adams’ novel The Harvey Girls.

Incidentally, it is thought that the Harvey Houses originated the "blue-plate special," a daily low-priced complete meal served on a blue-patterned china plate; an 1892 Harvey menu mentions them - some 30 years before the term became widespread.

Momma got me this cute china figurine of a Harvey Girl as a souvenir!

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