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When Molly Was a Harvey Girl / by Frances M. Wood

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Title: When Molly Was a Harvey Girl
Frances M. Wood
Publisher: Kane Miller Publishers
ISBN: 978-1-935279-51-8
Year: 2010

Concepts: Job search, training, working conditions, child labor, scarcity.

Review: Once Molly's older sister Colleen had paid off all Papa's debts, doctor's bills, and the mortician, she had less than eighteen dollars in her handbag. Having spotted a help wanted ad in the newspaper for waitresses in the Harvey Eating Houses, Colleen decided that she and Molly would both apply. After all, they needed the money, and the jobs came with room and board. They would have to lie about Molly's age though, since thirteen fell well below the cut-off specified in the ad.

The sisters both got jobs, but their placement took them by surprise: they would have to move all the way from Streator, Illinois to Raton, New Mexico in order to work as Harvey girls along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway line. Molly resented leaving her old life behind, and even though she picked up the waitressing skills quickly, she devised a scheme to trick her sister into marrying a Chicago man so they could move back home. Little did Molly realize the danger in which that scheme would place the sisters and their new Harvey House friends.

Set in the late 1800s when outlaws stirred up trouble in the Wild West and the railroad provided a popular means of travel, this novel provides a fascinating glimpse of work life at a Harvey House, one of the first restaurant chains in this country. The book's substantive content has plenty of economics, with a focus on job search, training, and working conditions, all of which is expertly woven into a smart and enjoyable story.

Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children


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