The Woodward News

Local News

March 7, 2014

Documentary to feature Harvey Girls

Woodward, Okla. — They inspired a film starring Judy Garland called “The Harvey Girls.”

It was a historically named film chronicling the lives of those iconic waitresses who threw caution to the wind and went to work at the turn of the century for Fred Harvey and the Santa Fe Railroad in the now historic Harvey House Restaurants, such as the one in Waynoka.

On Saturday, March 15, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.. the Oklahoma History Center will screen a documentary film about the Harvey Girls and European born Fred Harvey the driving force behind the Harvey House Restaurants.

The Harvey Girls were waitresses who changed how women in the workplace were viewed during the turn of the century, said Sarah Dumas, curator of education with the Oklahoma History Center.

“The documentary is fantastic and it talks about a couple of women from Oklahoma who went on to work in a Harvey House,” Dumas said.

According to historical documentation, Fred Harvey was a London born entrepreneur whose understanding of great food led him to create the first Harvey House Restaurant along the Santa Fe Railroad in Topeka, Kan., in 1876. Because of his business savvy, he was eventually granted the right by Santa Fe Railroad to operate all of the eating establishments along the Santa Fe line west of Missouri, with locations all the way to Los Angeles.

One of those stops was in Waynoka, where the Harvey House there was opened in 1910. Part of the allure of all his locations were the women Harvey hired as waitresses. Peculiar was the prescribed way they dressed and they had to be between the ages of 18 and 30 and be attractive and intelligent.

According to Dumas, those who attend the screening will have the rare opportunity to be present in a “live historical play” of sorts whereby staff members will be dressed as the Harvey Girls and will be able to speak in real time, with correct historical detail about how life was for the women who chose to live this life.

“Then, they will have time to take pictures with them,” Dumas said.

The event will feature two speakers, including Dr. Suzzanne Kelly, the writer of the Harvey Girls entry into the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture as well as Waynoka’s own Historic Harvey House Director, Sandie Olson. According to Dumas, Olson will give a talk on how the restoration of Waynoka’s Harvey House came about as well as what is available there for those who would like to visit.

For further information, contact education@okhistory.org or call 405.522.3602.

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