The Chanute Historical Society will host “The Harvey Girls,” a presentation and discussion by Michaeline Chance-Reay on 6 pm Monday, July 31 at the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum. 

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,” Chance-Reay said, “but the Harvey Company offered unique opportunities. It was demanding work but also offered a decent salary in a protected environment, in addition to travel and adventure.”

This is the final program in the “Riding the Rails of History: the Santa Fe Railroad and Fred Harvey in Chanute” series.  The program is co-sponsored by the Chanute Historical Society, the Chanute Public Library, and the Martin & Osa Johnson Safari Museum. The program will be presented in the Safari Museum’s Gallery room located on the second floor of the Depot.  

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 gradually 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.

“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. 

Immediately following the program, refreshments will be served in the Leighty Conference room by Historical Society members dressed as Harvey Girls, and a tour of the library will be given highlighting the areas that housed the Harvey House restaurant. Mrs. Fred Harvey’s delicate tea dress and a reproduction of a Harvey Girl uniform will be on display, along with photographs and news articles.

The Kansas Humanities Council conducts and supports community-based programs, serves as a financial resource through an active grant-making program, and encourages Kansans to engage in the civic and cultural life of their communities. 

For more information about KHC programs, contact the Kansas Humanities Council at (785) 357-0359 or visit online at

For more information about “The Harvey Girls” in Chanute, contact the Chanute Historical Society by mail at PO Box 259 or visit the museum on weekends from 1-4 pm at 0 E. Elm, or on the website at

Members of the community are invited to attend the free program. Contact Cindy Dent with Chanute Public Library at (620) 431-3820 for more information. The program is made possible by the Kansas Humanities Council.


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