Mary attended the Academy and Williams Commercial College, studying business, an unusual field for the time for women.
Emma"s father operated a meat market in during the 1880s. Joseph and Mary died by 1889. Following her studies, Emma worked at the Lee Welch bookstore as a clerk.
By 1902 Emma had accumulated enough savings to by the shares of John Ries of the Lee and Ries bookstore, and owned the entire operation in another two years.
Selling the store for a profit, she moved to Kirksville, Missouri, where she bought and turned around a failing bookstore, going on to buy and sell other businesses in Kirksville and surrounding towns. At the age of 43 Emma was financially secure and she returned to to retire.
Using an inheritance that Stach had received, Emma and Mary opened a ladies" clothing store in 1913, Harvat and Stach, which became a success. Stach was the store"s expert on fashion, and Harvat ran the business.
By 1919 Harvat and Stach built a new house, the Harvat and Mary East. Stach House, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Harvat was elected to the city council in 1921, serving two terms as alderman-at-large. In 1922 the then-mayor, Ingalls Swisher, resigned and Emma Harvat was elected mayor pro tem by the council. She ran for mayor in 1923 and was elected, the first female mayor of As the first female leader of a city with a population of more than 10,000 in the United States, her election was covered in national and international newspapers.
She served as mayor until 1925 through a period of civic growth.
During her tenure a zoning commission was established, and city services were improved and extended. Harvat lost election to a third term, and made an unsuccessful run for the council in 1935.
Emma Harvat died in 1949, aged 79. In 2000 the City Council auditorium at the City Hall of, was designated Harvat Hall.
She was inducted into the Iowa Women"s Hall of Fame in 2007.