Because the Harvey Girls, created by Fred Harvey to staff his chain of restaurants and hotels along the route of the Santa Fe Railroad, are the background of my historical mystery, Seashells in the Desert, it seems fitting to use them as the theme of this Labor Day post.
In the early 1880’s, the joke was that “there are no ladies west of Dodge and no women west of Albuquerque.” Fred Harvey changed all that. He is credited with creating the first female work force for something other than factory piece work in the Northeast. Women of character left homes and families to travel, often alone, to isolated sites. These women possessed courage, endurance and a sense of adventure. Will Rogers said of Fred Harvey, “he kept the West in food…and wives.”
Many of the Harvey Girls stayed on the frontier, raising families and instilling in future generations that same “can-do” spirit. Often they owned businesses, ran ranches, became doctors and lawyers. The West provided that opportunity, Fred Harvey provided the transportation, and the women themselves provided the backbone. As a lifelong Arizonan, I say “thank you.”