Monday, May 11, 2020

How Women Fed the Western Expansion: The Harvey Girls

Waitressing may not seem an unusual occupation for a woman these days, but in the late 1800s, a woman who served the public in an establishment most likely would have been a dance hall girl in a saloon. That changed when Fred Harvey, an Englishman, began to open up The Harvey Houses along the Santa Fe Railroad line starting in 1878. Harvey was one of the first to employ women of “good character” to serve the railroad patrons who were traveling west over several days where stopovers to eat at a respectable and well-ordered establishment were a welcome respite. With the founding of the Harvey House restaurants, hotels, and resorts, Fred Harvey and the Santa Fe Railroad also began an experiment in something new for the Wild West—tourism.

In keeping with the age, Fred Harvey initially employed men and only men to work in his restaurants. But after a midnight brawl by waiters at his Raton, New Mexico establishment, Fred Harvey took the advice of his new manager and hired women because they were less likely “to get likkered up and go on tears…Those waitresses were the first respectable women the cowboys had ever seen—that is outside their own wives and mothers. Those roughnecks learned manners.” (Quoted from Tom Gable as cited in The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened The West, by Lesley Poling-Kempes, p.42)

These upstanding waitresses were popular with both patrons and the community to such an extent that Fred Harvey decided to replace the waiters in all his restaurants with women. A major obstacle would be convincing single women of good virtue to venture into the rough and ready frontier towns filled with saloons and the cowboys, railroad men, and prostitutes who frequented them.

Fred Harvey sought “women who were well educated (in the 1880s, this meant having completed high school or at least the eighth grade) and exhibited good manners, clear speech, and neatness in appearance. Vulgarity of any kind would not be tolerated. Upon acceptance, a young woman usually had only twenty-four hours to say her goodbyes at home before she began rigorous training. When a Harvey Girl signed her contract for twelve, nine, or six months, she agreed to learn the Harvey system, follow instructions to the letter, obey employee rules, accept whatever locations she was assigned to for work, and abstain from marriage during the duration of her initial contract.” The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened The West, by Lesley Poling Kempes, p. 43

Harvey Girls worked hard, putting in a good day’s labor, though every account says that Fred Harvey was a fair employer who treated his staff with respect and care. In most cases, a Harvey girl was required to work two to three meal shifts a day with just thirty minutes to feed upwards of 50 passengers at a time over eight trains, but there were plenty of staff to make it happen, from cooks to butchers to busboys and from fifteen to thirty Harvey Girls per establishment. There was an opportunity for promotion up the ranks and, on rare occasions, a woman could even become a manager where she would receive equal pay to a man—something often not true today.

Well aware that in the West, particularly, a waitress was often thought to be a prostitute as well, Fred Harvey lifted up waitressing to a professional standard by mandating that these single women reside in Harvey House dormitories on-premise in “beautiful and well-kept rooms” under the guardianship of a house mother enforcing a strict curfew. Adhering to a universal Harvey Girls uniform, a Harvey Girl presented the picture of virtue with no make-up allowed and starched black and white skirts and bibs and aprons with hems no more than eight inches from the floor. Enforcing high standards assured the public that these were women of good moral character to be treated with the respect due to a lady.

Thousands of women applied during the Harvey House period spanning 1883 until the 1950s. Here was an opportunity for independence previously unavailable to women, with the exception of becoming a teacher.

Harvey Girls were paid an average of “$17.50/month” with free room and board and railroad passes. Compare this to the cowboy at the time who generally earned about $30/month with keep.  Still, for a woman, these were considered good wages in a protected environment with the added bonus of adventure and, possibly, a marriage proposal. Minnie O’Neal became a Harvey Girl around 1885 in Raton, New Mexico, and ended up married to the ranch foreman of Senator Stephen Dorsey’s ranch. Her experience was not uncommon. “It is estimated that more than 100,000 girls worked for Harvey House restaurants and hotels and of those, 20,000 married their regular customers.”-

Fred Harvey worked with farming schedules, allowing time off during summer months to those who were needed on the farm and replacing them temporarily with teachers who needed work during summer months. Particularly in later years and through the depression, The Harvey Houses were known to help employees, including women, obtain a college education in the communities that had colleges or universities, by providing accommodating schedules for those who wished to attend classes.

The Harvey Girls were immortalized in Sam Adams’ book of the same name and romanticized in the MGM movie starring Judy Garland where there was much singing and dancing but not as much hard work depicted as reality would suggest. The romance, however, appears to have been true. For those of you who have never seen the movie or would like a quick jog down memory lane, here is the movie trailer:

The story of the Harvey Girls is one more example of women making their way out west for a new life in a role unthinkable at the time in eastern environs. As Will Rogers, an enthusiastic and loyal Harvey House customer, said: “In the early days, the traveler fed on the buffalo. For doing so, the buffalo got his picture on the nickel. Well, Fred Harvey should have his picture on the one side of a dime, and one of his waitresses with her arms full of delicious ham and eggs on the other side, ‘cause they have kept the West supplied with food and wives.”  (Quoted in The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West by Lesley Poling Kempes, p. 102)

Besides Lesley Poling Kempes book referenced above, another good book about the Fred Harvey Company is Appetite for America by Stephen Fried.

My novella, WHEN LOVES COMES CALLING, is about the amorous adventure of a young woman who has become a Harvey Girl in 1884 Colorado just as the Fred Harvey Company was beginning to employ women as waitresses.

1884 Colorado
 Working as a waitress at a Harvey House Restaurant out west has been a lifesaver for homeless Callie Rhinehart, literally. The position has provided a roof over her head, the security of decent pay, and a career with a reputable company after the death of her parents and sister. When handsome widow Frank Sutton sits at her counter with a sweet little boy in need of a mother, Callie’s carefully laid plans are threatened. But despite her growing feelings for the rancher, should she give up the security and independence afforded by the Harvey Company and risk a marriage of mere convenience to a temptingly handsome stranger?
It’s true that Frank originally pursued Callie because he needed a mother for his child, but he’s fallen in love with her independent spirit. Competing with another man for her affections is one thing, competing with the Harvey Company is proving to be quite another.

You can read an excerpt here:

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Real Story of Woody and Willy (Tangled Up With A Cowboy)

I wanted to share with you the real-life story of the two little cats pictured above who are also featured in TANGLED UP WITH A COWBOY where Livvy finds two kittens abandoned on the side of the road. The tale of how one kitten saved the life of his brother is based on the true adventure of two kittens we adopted many years ago.

Years ago a coworker was driving home from work on a lonely country lane when she spotted something in the middle of the road. She stopped the car when she realized that the “something” was a little black and white ball of fur just sitting there as if daring someone to stop. She didn’t want to risk the kitten getting hit so she got out of the car to see what was going on. With that, the little ball of fluff scampered into the drainage ditch on the side of the road and scurried up into a bunch of bushes.

What could Marlene do but follow. Obviously, given the remoteness of the area, this little kitten had been abandoned and autumn was already in the air. She gingerly stepped into the ditch, hoping her high heels would manage, and then climbed up the small embankment. Brushing away the bushes, she found the little kitten sitting beside a sibling with similar markings crouched amongst branches and leaves. It was clear from the blood matting the fur of the sibling (who we would name Woody) that he was hurt and the cat in the middle of the road (who we would name Willy) had purposely led her there so she could find his injured sibling. Marlene did what anyone with a big heart would have done; she first scooped up the uninjured cat who, without protest, allowed her to place him in her car. Then, after getting an old jacket from the trunk, she went back for the injured cat, quite certain that he wasn’t in any condition to flee.

Indeed he was waiting for her, meowing by this time, likely for his brother. Wrapping him in the old jacket, she got him back to the car where Willy was meowing in response. Upon the two cats seeing each other, the meowing stopped and Marlene put them together in the back seat. Both, she said, behaved well on the drive to the veterinarian she used for her own dog and several cats. The veterinarian’s verdict was that the injured cat was likely attacked by a wild animal and needed stitches but the healthy cat just needed shots and could go home with her. And so that was the situation when Marlene asked me if I wanted to adopt these kittens.

I hesitated because we had just lost our cat, Puddin’. Marlene explained that she really couldn’t keep them. She already had four pets and her husband did not want any more. Would I just take a peek at their picture, Marlene asked?

You can guess the rest.  I took one look at their picture and Woody and Willy had a home. It wasn’t hard to convince my husband either after I showed him their photo. 

And that is how Woody and Willy came into our lives. Willy was always the hero, but we both had a soft spot for Woody who thrived, despite rather deep wounds in his early life. But if his brother hadn’t flagged down a passing car, we shudder to think what would have happened to either of them abandoned on that isolated strip of road.

Willy was the stronger, heftier sibling and just like in TANGLED UP WITH A COWBOY, we had to keep him from eating Woody’s food. Willy was also the bolder one and loved trailing after guests like a dog, sitting on anyone’s lap who would let him. Woody, on the other hand, was shy and more reserved. He’d let his brother have his way if we didn’t intervene. It usually took him a while before he would come out when company came calling.  Not surprising after what he had been through in the early part of his life.

Woody and Willy passed on several years ago. But they brought us much joy in the time we had with them and we will never forget how Willy saved his brother so they could live happily ever after with us.

I hope you enjoy TANGLED UP WITH A COWBOY and the story of Woody and Willy that it contains. For those who have pets, how did you find your fur baby, or rather how did your fur baby find you?

Friday, June 21, 2019

Cover Reveal TANGLED UP WITH A COWBOY Book 5 Hearts of Wyoming series

I just love this cover for Book 5 in the Hearts of Wyoming series and hope you do too!
TANGLED UP WITH A COWBOY is Lonnie Kasin's (from LOVING A COWBOY) and Livvy Dennis' (from THE LONER'S HEART) story. Here's the tentative blurb:

Having bottled up his feelings a long time ago, the only pain bull rider Lonnie Kasin feels these days is the pain inflicted by a bull. But when he meets pretty and impulsive yoga instructor Livvy Dennis, she awakens a yearning that just won’t go away no matter how hard he tries. Still doesn’t change the fact that hearth and home isn’t in the cards for someone like him.

Livvy Dennis fell for the dare-devil cowboy at first sight. Too bad he’s made it clear he’s not interested in her. Despite a bruised heart, this yoga instructor is determined to help him survive bull riding any way she can… whether he wants her to or not.

When stubborn meets determined, can love still win?

 Each story in the Hearts of Wyoming series stands on its own but every book features rugged cowboys and the strong women who tame them.

Check back for the publication date or sign up for my newsletter to get all the latest! Happy trails!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Scottish, Irish, and British Connection with Wyoming

Sitting in a booth in The Albany restaurant, bar, and liquor-mart in Cheyenne, Wyoming, my husband and I never suspected we would have the best bread pudding ever in just a few minutes. My husband is somewhat of a connoisseur of bread pudding. No matter where we are in the world, if bread pudding is on the menu, he must sample it. Last month in Cheyenne was no exception.

How good was it? Mouthwatering. Perfectly balanced sweetness, perfect moistness, just divine.

Who would expect such wonderful bread pudding in a town known for being part of the Wild West? Who would expect to find high tea being served at the Nagle Warren Mansion either? The answer to those two questions is anyone who has studied Wyoming history.

Wyoming was a magnet for Scots, Irish, and British immigrants, some of them second sons of aristocrats who came to Wyoming to make their name as Cattle Barons. Here are just a few famous Wyoming citizens with roots across the pond.

William Drummond Stewart came to Wyoming in 1833, the second son of Sir George Stewart and Catherine Drummond. When his father passed away, he inherited £3000 but control over the inheritance was given to his older brother. Stewart decided to cross the Atlantic and make his way as an American fur trader along the Green River in Wyoming. During his time in America, he met William Clark of Lewis and Clark, traveled with the son of future President William Henry Harrison, as well as Eliza Spaulding, the first Euro-American woman to cross South Pass Wyoming. He eventually returned to Scotland upon the death of his elder brother in order to inherit the title and live out his days in Scotland.

Ella “Cattle Kate” Watson, daughter of a Scotsman who immigrated to America, was a woman homesteader who got caught in the crosshairs of a powerful cattle baron, Albert Bothwell who claimed, erroneously, that she was homesteading on his land (it was public domain land) and had rustled his cattle. He came with several men to her ranch, abducted her, and took her and her partner, James Averell to a large tree near the banks of the Sweetwater River and hung them. Witnesses to the crime either disappeared or were found dead and so the lynching party escaped any consequence.

This event, however, precipitated the Johnson County wars. John Clay Jr. of Perthshire,  managed ranches for Scottish investors of the Swan Land and Cattle Company. He became President of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association which held meetings at the exclusive Cheyenne Club where decorum was insisted upon and tea was served. As President, John Clay Jr. defended the actions of the hired guns who invaded Wyoming’s Johnson County and killed the falsely accused Nate Champion for cattle rustling and laid siege to another ranch. The shootout, which involved law enforcement and the militia, took place over 3 days until the invaders could be arrested. Clay denied any knowledge.

Military service and construction of railroads brought the Irish to Wyoming including one very prominent Irishman, Fightin’ Philip Sheridan, son of Irish immigrants from  KillinkereCounty Cavan, Ireland. Sheridan, a military man throughout the Civil War and into the Indian Wars received a commission to the guard the natural resources of the Yellowstone area, an assignment Sheridan relished and took very seriously. Not only is Sheridan, the town, and Sheridan, the county, named after him but so is Mount Sheridan which was named in 1871 when he was still actively guarding the area.

Sir Horace Plunkett came from an aristocratic background. He was the third son of Admiral Edward Plunkett, the 16th Baron of Dunsany, of Dunsany Castle, and the Honorable Anne Constance Dutton (d. 1858) (daughter of John Dutton, 2nd Baron of Sherborne). He attended Eton 
College and University College, Oxford, of which he became an honorary fellow in 1909. Threatened by lung trouble in 1879, Horace Plunkett thought ranching in the healthy air of the West could help. He ranched for ten years (1879–89) in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming, which proved to be quite lucrative as he amassed a substantial fortune. He also learned a lot about agriculture during his stint as a rancher and, once he returned to Ireland, he used his new knowledge to improve agriculture techniques in Ireland.
Richard "Dick" and Moreton Frewen were sons of a wealthy Sussex, England, squire. Unfortunately, Moreton recklessly spent the money he was given by his father and decided to try his luck in America. He convinced his brother to accompany him out West. A chance meeting with General Sheridan sent the Frewen brothers to Powder River country. There the brothers acquired cattle and built a sumptuous home dubbed the Frewen Castle. Bad investments and rough winters soon sent the brothers back to England, poorer for the adventure.
And then there were Scottish born ranchers Malcolm and William Moncrieff, sons of Lord Thomas Moncrieff, and their English cousin Oliver Wallop who are credited with bringing polo to Wyoming.  
The influence of the United Kingdom and Ireland had found its way into the culture of the West and left behind some of the best bread pudding ever.
Where have you had great bread pudding? Hubby would love to know, lol.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Exploring Wyoming for HEARTS OF WYOMING

Took some time last week to enjoy Southern Wyoming where much of the Hearts of Wyoming series takes place. Traipsed around Cheyenne which still retains much of the flavor from the turn of the last century. Checked out the Cheyenne Frontier Days fairgrounds where Chance became a million dollar cowboy in Loving a Cowboy. Then took a drive to Laramie and enjoyed the sights of ranches and cattle as depicted in The Rancher’s Heart and Loner’s Heart with rolling hills and formidable mountains in the background. Saw a rodeo in Laramie, the kind that the Prescott Rodeo Company would have put on in The Maverick Meets His Match and Lonnie Kasin would have participated in ala my new work in progress. Then headed to Denver where Haylee from The Rancher’s Heart lived before she found Trace and saw the place where the Western Stock Show takes place which will figure into the new Hearts of Wyoming story, yet to be titled.  Here are some pictures of my trip you might enjoy. I have a ton from the Laramie rodeo and will be posting one every Tuesday for True Cowboy Tuesday on the LOVE WESTERN ROMANCE page. Enjoy!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Decorating the Christmas Tree

We lived for thirteen years in a Victorian-era home and for that time our tree was decorated in a Victorian theme. When we moved in the year 2000, it was difficult for me to leave that house because it always represented hearth and home to me. So, even though we had moved to a newer home and then to a brand new home, we continue to decorate our Christmas tree in a Victorian theme. It may not "fit" with the contemporary decor of our current house, but to our family, it fits perfectly in our hearts.  Here are some pictures of our former home and tree and our tree today. Have you put up your tree yet? What are some of your favorite ornaments that say Christmas to you?

And here is our tree today:

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Monday, June 12, 2017


Why did I choose Wyoming for the setting of my Hearts of Wyoming series? There are lots of things about Wyoming that make it a perfect setting for a western romance...the cowboys being just one such reason, lol.

Here are some fun facts about Wyoming:

1. Wyoming is the Equality state because it was the first state to give women the right to vote, which it did in 1869
2. Nellie Tayloe Ross was the first woman to be elected governor of a U.S. state and that state was Wyoming!
3. Louisa Ann Swain was the first woman in the U.S. to vote and she cast her ballot in Laramie, Wyoming in 1870
4. Wyoming is home to the pronghorn, the fastest mammal in the Western Hemisphere

5. The first Dude Ranch in Wyoming (and possibly anywhere) was the Eaton Ranch, near Wolf (1879). The Eaton's also came up with the term "dude". The Eaton Ranch is still a dude ranch and still run by members of the Eaton family. 
6. In 2014, Wyoming was estimated to have 11,700 farms and ranches with an average acreage of 2,598!
7. Wyoming has the lowest population of all the 50 states
8. The name Wyoming originated from a Native American word, mecheweamiing, meaning land of big plains.
9. The horse on the license plate is named Old Steamboat after a bronc that could not be ridden back in the day.
10. Yellowstone is the first official National Park (1872).

So you see, this state is the perfect setting for romance western-style!  The Heart of Wyoming Series currently has three books available on Amazon:

The next and fourth book in the series, The Loner's Heart (Trace's story), is due out in 2017!