Filmmaker, author to share stories about the Harvey Girls

The Harvey Girls worked in the many Harvey Houses along the railroad. (Courtesy of Northern Arizona University)
The Harvey Girls worked in the many Harvey Houses along the railroad. (Courtesy of Northern Arizona University)

It’s been a few years since Katrina Parks released the documentary “The Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound.”

Despite some time passing, Parks continues to learn more about The Harvey Girls.

PARKS: Director of documentary
PARKS: Director of documentary

“The Harvey Girls are an ongoing muse to me. It’s hard to resist them,” she says. “The stories I get to hear are great. There’s always so much to learn.”

Fred Harvey was an entrepreneur who introduced the Harvey Houses to the world. They were lunchrooms, restaurants, souvenir shops and hotels that served passengers on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

Harvey Houses were known to provide high standards of civility and dining in the Wild West.

Women moved out West to become Harvey House employees, known as Harvey Girls.

Parks will collaborate with writer Carolyn Meyer for the event at 516 Arts.

The duo will share stories and history about one of the first all-female American workforces, which started in the 1880s and ended in the 1960s.

MEYER: Book focuses on Harvey Girls
MEYER: Book focuses on Harvey Girls

Meyer is the author of “Diary of a Waitress: The Not-So-Glamorous Life of a Harvey Girl.”

The presentation will include segments from Parks’ new interviews with a diverse group of Harvey Girls whose experiences emphasize how their lives were transformed by arriving in a new place, how they created community and the importance of the Harvey Girls to New Mexico’s development and the multiculturalism of the region.

Parks’ project documents how over 100,000 railroad station waitresses opened up the American West and the workplace to women. This event delves into a historic migration of female workers and examines a history that is still relevant to today’s issues of revitalization, migration and place making.

The event is also part of 516 Arts’ “At Home in the World” exhibit and also celebrates “Women & Creativity” month.

“I thought this was a great opportunity to tell the stories of these women who moved away from their homes to become a Harvey Girl,” she says. “And their stories don’t end there. Many of the women moved on to full careers. It was a successful time for women, and the stories are amazing to share.”

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