The creation of the Harvey Houses also provided a previously unheard of opportunity for young women. Harvey exclusively hired women as wait staff after being given a tip upon seeing hungover male workers. Women were the superior option because, “they don’t get drunk, they’re neat, and they’re always on time.” The company put out ads for "white, young women, 18-30 years of age, of good character, attractive and intelligent" to undergo training. Getting a job with Fred Harvey meant the opportunity to travel and make a living for oneself in a time where women were largely forced to be dependent on their fathers or husbands. It also provided a larger pool of suitors. Women made $18.50 a month which included housing and meals. They were expected to adhere to a contract spanning a few months to a few years. The girls had a strict curfew of 10 pm and were monitored by a "house mother".
Harvey Girls had a strict uniform. They were to wear a starched black and white dress with the skirt coming up no more than 8 inches from the floor with black stocking, black shoes, a white collar, and hair tied up in a net with a signature white ribbon.
Though they were strictly monitored and held to the highest standards, the opportunity to leave home and make a name for oneself was well worth it for many women. The unsullied reputations of the Harvey Girls made them very desirable to the men out west. Marriage was the most common reason for breaking a contract, which required the girl to forfeit half of her pay.
A movie aptly titled "The Harvey Girls" was released by MGM in 1946. The musical had Judy Garland in the starring role and won an academy award for the original song "On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe".