In 1883, the following ad ran in newspapers all over the East Coast of the United States:
WANTED: Young women, 18 to 30 years of age, of good moral character, attractive and intelligent, as waitresses in Harvey Eating Houses on the Santa Fe Railroad in the West. Wages $17.50 per month with room and board. Liberal tips customary. Experience not necessary. Write Fred Harvey, Union Depot, Kansas City, Missouri.
Within days, thousands of women answered the call. They came from all over the United States, and from across the Atlantic, all seeking brighter horizons. They would fight for the chance to join an elite group of hard-working women in an often lawless land where the wild frontier was giving way, grudgingly, to the Industrial Age. They were The Harvey Girls. And they brought civilization with them.
Harvey Girls will be a dramatic series about enterprising and complex young women—some willing refugees, others on the run from their pasts—who attempted to forge new lives and identities for themselves in a land violently transforming into the modern West. Their story was raw and dangerous, and the stuff of compelling drama—Downton Abbey spiked with a dose of Deadwood. The girls never knew who would step off the next Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe special. Perhaps a prospective beau, perhaps a shot at fame and fortune – or perhaps an unwelcome reminder of that past many of them had traveled so far to escape.