"The nonfiction aspects of the subject and the era are subtly interwoven into Clara's own adventure; readers may not realize they're getting a history lesson as well as an exciting tale. . . . Readers will follow with much interest Clara's experience as a young country girl out on her own, trying to learn the many details and rules of her new job. . . . Although this fast-paced novel is well suited for its intended age group, adults will enjoy it as well. Foard supplements the story with a section on the real Harvey Girls history. In Kansas City, a Mrs. Steel hires the protagonist, saying: 'I like your spunk, Clara.' Readers will agree."--Foreword Magazine
"The 21st century ceases to exist once the reader opens the pages of this young adult novel. The author deftly recreates life on a poor farm, the trepidation of your first interview, and the excitement of starting your first job. Clara matures and grows, although at times her old self intrudes, just as in real life. . . . Seamlessly interweaves history with fiction. Photographs depicting Harvey Houses and their staff, and information about the real Harvey Girls, are icing on the cake."--Historical Novels Review
Wanted: Young women, 18 to 30 years of age, of good moral character, attractive and intelligent, as waitresses in the Harvey Eating Houses on the Santa Fe Railroad in the West. Good wages with room and meals furnished. Liberal tips customary. Experience not necessary.
Harvey Girls served gourmet meals to passengers of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway. During the late 1800s and the first half of the 1900s, Harvey Houses were a familiar sight to train travelers in the American West. There were one hundred Harvey Houses and about a hundred thousand Harvey Girls over the years. In a time when there were limited career choices for women, becoming a Harvey Girl offered rare independence for young ladies.
In 1919 one such Harvey Girl is feisty Clara Fern Massie, an Ozark farm girl who runs away from home on her fourteenth birthday after standing up to her harsh father. Heading west and taking a job as a waitress--a Harvey Girl--the underage Clara struggles to learn the demanding "Harvey Way" and shed her farm-girl image to become a confident, independent woman.
Sheila Wood Foard, as a docent at a Harvey House in New Mexico, interviewed former Harvey Girls to get their stories firsthand. A former English and journalism teacher, Foard is a writing instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature and the author of the teen biography Diego Rivera. She lives in Missouri.