Thursday, March 2, 2017

Behind the Story ♦ Linda Shenton Matchett

On The Rails: The Story Behind the Story
By Linda Shenton Matchett

I am very fortunate to live in modern times, an era when women can do and be anything they want. Over the years, I have been a Human Resources professional, a bed and breakfast owner, a youth center director, and a dining services manager. I am now a writer.

But for women who lived in the early years of this country, opportunities were limited. As a former HR Director, I am intrigued by the jobs and employment situations available for females during our nation’s history.

My most recent book, On The Rails: A Harvey Girl Story, is about Katherine Newman, a young woman whose life is turned upside down when her boyfriend breaks up with her rather than propose marriage as she anticipated. She leaves her small town in Ohio to take a job as a Harvey Girl in Arizona.

Have you ever heard of the Harvey Girls? I hadn’t until visiting the Grand Canyon several years ago. As with any topic I’m unfamiliar with, I researched Fred Harvey and “his girls.”

What I discovered was that in the late 1800s, travelers literally took their lives in their hands when they ate the food served in the restaurants dotting the landscape along the railroad lines. Stories abound about food poisoning and intestinal distress. Having worked in the food service industry, immigrant Fred Harvey knew he could do a better job. He managed to ink a deal with the Santa Fe railroad and soon had multiple establishments along their routes.

His only problem? Staffing.

Fred’s employees were all men, and a large majority of them got drunk on payday and failed to show up for work on subsequent days. Deciding that women made better employees, he took a risk and ran advertisements in the Eastern newspapers, an unheard idea at the time. “Nice women” didn’t work in restaurants. Applicants showed up in droves, and his problem was solved.

Continuing my digging, I hit a gold mine and unearthed numerous memoirs and interviews with these gutsy women who left family and friends behind to sign contracts to work as waitresses in “Harvey Houses” scattered throughout the Old West. Some came because marriage possibilities were non-existent in their towns and others because they needed the income a steady job provided.

Picture Harvey Uniform courtesy Wikipedia 

When I read about women who signed on with Mr. Harvey to escape their lives, I knew I had my story.

Want to learn more? The eBook version of On the Rails is FREE from March 1-5. Download your copy today. Buy Link:

Back of Book Blurb:

Warren, Ohio, 1910: Katherine Newman loves being a teacher, but she loves Henry Jorgensen more, which is why she’s willing to give up her job to marry him. But instead of proposing, Henry breaks up with her. Devastated, Katherine seeks to escape the probing eyes and wagging tongues of her small town. A former Harvey Girl, Katherine’s mother arranges for Katherine to be hired at the Williams, Arizona Harvey House. Can she carve out a new life in the stark desert land unlike anything she’s ever known?

Henry Jorgensen loves Katherine with all his heart, but as the eldest son of a poor farmer can he provide for her as she deserves? The family’s lien holder calls in the mortgage, and Henry must set aside his own desires in order to help his parents meet their financial obligation. But when Katherine leaves town after their break up, he realizes he’s made the biggest mistake of his life. Can he find her and convince her to give their love a second chance?

Linda Shenton Matchett is a journalist, blogger of all things historical, and author of Love’s Harvest, Love Found in Sherwood Forest, and On the Rails. Under Fire, the first book in her trilogy about WWII War Correspondent/Amateur sleuth Ruth Brown will be released July, 2017.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry, Linda has lived in historical places most of her life-from Edison, New Jersey (named for the famed light bulb inventor) and Washington, DC to Wolfeboro, New Hampshire (reputed to be the oldest summer resort in America).

A freelance writer for over ten years, her articles and devotionals have appeared in numerous print and online publications. A varied career has included stints as a crisis counselor, human resources professional, bed and breakfast owner, youth center director, and dining services manager

In her off hours, she can be found volunteering as a docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and as a Trustee for the Wolfeboro Public Library. She is active in her church where she serves as treasurer, usher, choir member, and Bible study leader.

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