Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West
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Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West

3.7 77
by Dorothy Wickenden
     
 

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This exhilarating saga about two intrepid young women who leave the affluence of their New York home to teach school on the Western frontier in 1916 is authentically created using actual letters home and interviews with descendants.

Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood attended grade school and Smith College together, spent nine months on a grand tour of

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Overview

This exhilarating saga about two intrepid young women who leave the affluence of their New York home to teach school on the Western frontier in 1916 is authentically created using actual letters home and interviews with descendants.

Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood attended grade school and Smith College together, spent nine months on a grand tour of Europe in 1910, and then, bored with society luncheons and chaperoned balls and not yet ready for marriage, they went off to teach the children of homesteaders in a remote schoolhouse on the Western Slope of Colorado. They traveled on the new railroad over the Continental Divide and by wagon to Elkhead, a tiny settlement far from the nearest town. Their students came to school from miles away in tattered clothes and shoes tied together with string.

Dorothy Woodruff was the grandmother of New Yorker executive editor Dorothy Wickenden. Nearly one hundred years later, Wickenden found the buoyant, detailed, colorful letters the two women wrote to their families. Through them, she has chronicled their trials in the classroom, the cowboys and pioneering women they met, and the violent kidnapping of a close friend. Central to their narrative is Ferry Carpenter, the witty, idealistic, and occasionally outrageous young lawyer and cattle rancher who hired them, in part because he thought they would make attractive and cultivated brides. None of them imagined the transforming effect the year would have—on the children, the families, and the teachers.

Wickenden set out on her own journey to discover what two intrepid Eastern women found when they went West, and what America was like at that uncertain moment, with the country poised for the First World War, but going through its own period of self-discovery.

Drawing upon the letters, interviews with descendants, research about these vanished communities, and trips to the region, Wickenden creates a compelling, original saga about the two intrepid young women and the “settling up” of the West.

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Editorial Reviews

Marie Arana
…Wickenden…knows what it takes to shape a good story. Culling details from a rich trove of family letters, she gives us a delightfully intricate tale…the narrative itself positively glimmers. Filled with the language of the day, informed by newspaper accounts, court records, personal journals and two teachers' rich observations, Nothing Daunted is a brilliant little gem of Americana.
—The Washington Post
Maria Russo
Individual scenes emerge with a lovely, almost pointillist clarity — like a Christmas party at the schoolhouse in the midst of a blizzard, with rustic dancing and gifts for the dazzled children sent by Dorothy’s and Ros’s families — while we never lose track of the larger forces at work, including the removal of the Indians and the brutal fights for mining and railroad riches.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
On July 24, 1916, the Syracuse Daily Journal printed the headline: "Society Girls Go to Wilds of Colorado." The two young women were Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood, recent graduates of Smith College who, in order to defy their family's expectation of marriage, sought work in the small town of Hayden, Colo. Woodruff was the grandmother of New Yorker executive editor Wickenden, who herself becomes a central character in an informative and engaging narrative. Using letters from her grandmother, newspaper articles, and interviews with descendants, Wickenden retells how Woodruff and Underwood traveled to the newly settled state of Colorado to teach at a ramshackle grade school. The book offers a wide cross-section of life in the American West, but the core of the story is the girls' slow adaptation to a society very different from the one in which they were raised, and their evolution from naïve but idealistic and open-minded society girls to strong-willed and pragmatic women who later married and raised families in the midst of the Great Depression. Wickenden brings to life two women who otherwise might have been lost to history and who took part in creating the modern-day West. Photos. (June)
From the Publisher
"From the elite ethos of Smith College to the raw frontier of northwestern Colorado, two friends dared to defy the conventions of their time and station. Dorothy Wickenden tells their extraordinary story with grace and insight, transporting us back to an America suffused with a sense of adventure and of possibility. This is a wonderful book about two formidable women, the lives they led—and the legacy they left."—Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion

“In Nothing Daunted, Dorothy Wickenden has beautifully captured a world in transition, a pivotal chapter not just in the life of her bold and spirited grandmother, but also in the life of the American west. Dorothy Woodruff and her friend Rosamond are like young women who walked out of a Henry James novel and headed west instead of east. Imagine Isabel Archer wrangling the ragged, half-wild children of homesteaders, whirling through dances with hopeful cowboys, and strapping on snowshoes in the middle of the night to urge a fallen horse onto an invisible trail in high snowdrifts, and you’ll have some idea of the intense charm and adventure of this remarkable book.”—Maile Meloy, author of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It

“A superb, stirring book. Through the eyes of two spirited and resourceful women from the civilized East, Wickenden makes the story of the American West engaging and personal. A delight to read.”—Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief

“The adventures of two well-bred Yankee ladies in the still wild West makes a remarkable, funny story. But evoked through Dorothy Wickenden's skillful use of letters, diaries, and memoirs, Nothing Daunted is also a slow parade through young America. Cowboys carefully-mannered before the ladies; the bare-legged, ragged children in their brand-new school; winter sleigh rides under the new moon—all these moments have been preserved, their colors fresh for modern wonderment: A haunting evocation of a vanished world.”—Caroline Alexander, author of The Bounty and The War that Killed Achilles

“Dorothy Wickenden was lucky to have such intriguing forebears...but the satisfying depth and vivacity of Nothing Daunted, the intimate, report-from the ground American saga the author has created with that correspondence as a foundation, have nothing to do with good fortune. Wickenden’s talents for research, observation, description, and narrative flow turn this unfaded snapshot of these early-20th-century women in the West into something even more resonant—a brightly painted mural of America under construction a century ago, personified by two ladies of true grit who were nothing daunted and everything enthusiastic about where the new century would take them.”Entertainment Weekly

“Wickenden has painstakingly recreated the story of how that earlier Dorothy and her friend Rosamond Underwood embarked on a brief but life-changing adventure, teaching the children of struggling homesteaders... Wickenden lets their tale of personal transformation open out to reveal the larger changes in the rough-and-tumble society of the West...Fascinating...scenes emerge with a lovely clarity”—Maria Russo, New York Times Book Review

“A superb biography... Wickenden summons up the last moments of frontier life, where books were a luxury and, when blizzards hit, homesteader’s children would ski miles to school on curved barrel staves... Nothing Daunted also reminds us that different strains of courage can be found, not just on the battlefield, but on the home front, too.”—Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air

“An enchanting family memoir…A brilliant gem of Americana.”Washington Post Book World

“Wickenden brings to life two women who otherwise might be lost to history and who took part in creating the modern-day West.”—Publishers Weekly

“A compelling story...”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Wickenden is a very good storyteller, and bracingly unsentimental. The sweep of the land and the stoicism of the people move her to some beautiful writing.”—Joan Acocella, Newsweek

"Wickenden uses personal history to illuminate the larger story of manifest destiny."The New Yorker

"A great story, with a richly appealing character at the center...a tale of the triumph of determination over adversity...wonderfully American."—Slate

“Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood come alive in Nothing Daunted, Dorothy Wickenden’s fascinating slice of social history... Their story is blessed with a cast of supporting characters that novelists would envy.”—USA Today

“Wickenden is a lucky and talented writer... Both women spring to life in this wonderful book.”—Houston Chronicle

“Lovingly pieced together.”Los Angeles Times

“Scrupulously researched... Both an entertaining and an edifying read, bringing early 20th-century Colorado to vivid life.”—Bookpage

“Century-old letters composed in the wilds of Colorado by two young schoolteachers provide the backbone of this stirring narrative.”Newsweek

“Dorothy Wickenden’s recounting of her grandmother Dorothy Woodruff’s treacherous cross-country journey is as charming as it is rugged... This is Little House on the Praire in petticoats, and it is enchanting.”—Rachel Syme, NPR.org

“Dorothy Wickenden has crafted an exquisite book.”Boston Globe

“A rich narrative... Nothing Daunted is an extraordinary book.”—Denver Post

“An intimate and joyful work that captures the best spirit of the 1910s—and today.”—Shelf Awareness

“Woodruff’s breezy letters could easily have stood on their own, but Wickenden chose to shape them into a narrative...Her instinct was right: Nothing Daunted is at once enjoyable and enlightening.”American Way

Library Journal
Wickenden (executive editor, The New Yorker) shares the story of her grandmother Dorothy Woodruff, who, along with close personal friend Rosamond Underwood, spent nine months teaching at a remote settlement school in northwestern Colorado in the early 20th century. This highly personalized and meticulously researched account is more than a simple family history: it tells a great backstory about American development in those years, an "alternative western," in Wickenden's words. These rich and well-educated young society women, tired of social conventions and frustrated by suffrage work, came face to face with another America in the years before World War I—one that was poor, diverse, remote, lacking in modern conveniences, occasionally violent, and yet spectacularly beautiful and "new." Although far from being a scholarly account, the story here adds to our understanding of the complexity of women's experiences in presuffrage America. As college students today do transformative volunteer work worldwide, so, too, did these two young women. Their lovingly preserved letters richly demonstrate how in seeking to assist others they also changed themselves. VERDICT Recommended for general readers interested in the development of the American West, teachers, and those seeking contributions by women to history. [See Prepub Alert, 12/20/10.]—Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ
Kirkus Reviews

A detailed study of two spirited and privileged young women who unexpectedly became a small part of the history of the American West.

Rosamund Underwood and Dorothy Woodruff, both Smith College graduates, spent their 20s traveling to Europe and Manhattan and pouring tea for suffragettes at home in Auburn, N.Y. Nearing 30, they were becoming restless and, longing to do useful and interesting work, applied to become teachers in the small community of Elkhead, Colo. New Yorker executive editor Wickenden, Woodruff's granddaughter, relates their experiences with a vivid, gossipy flair, and readers get an excellent sense of what everyday life was like, not only for the privileged and highly educated, but for the mine worker, the homesteader, the elementary-school teacher. However, readers expecting a straightforward, linear narrative will be baffled by the sinuous curve of the story as it makes switchbacks and loops, like the much-discussed Moffat Road Railroad. In fact, the momentous first day of school for the young teachers doesn't arrive until halfway through the book. The earlier material covers their journey to Elkhead, their childhood and college years and their extensive domestic and international travel. The author's frequent diversions into local and national history demand careful attention, and they might delight one reader but bore another. Wickenden defers the discussion of the women's marriages until two-thirds of the way through the book, which both prioritizes their accomplishments and entices the reader. We know at the outset that Dorothy has children, and this knowledge pulls us gently through the narrative's many turns.

An absorbing maze of a book—readers may well, like Woodruff and Underwood, find their hearts lost to the West.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439176597
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
04/24/2012
Pages:
286
Sales rank:
124,777
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.28(h) x 0.81(d)

Read an Excerpt

Nothing Daunted

  • Miss Underwood (left), Miss Woodruff, and Elkhead students, 1916

    One weekend afternoon in the fall of 2008, at the back of a drawer in my old wooden desk at home, I came across a folder I had forgotten. “Dorothy Woodruff Letters, Elkhead 1916–17.” My mother had given me the file when my children were young, and I had put it away, intending to look through it, but life had intervened. I glanced at the first letter. Dated Friday, July 28, 1916, it was written on the stationery of the Hayden Inn. At the top of the sheet was a photograph of a homely three-story concrete-block house with a few spindly saplings out front. The inn advertised itself as “The Only First-Class Hotel in Hayden.” Dorothy wrote: “My dearest family: Can you believe that I am actually far out here in Colorado? ”

    She and her close friend, Rosamond Underwood, had grown up together in Auburn, New York. They had just arrived after a five-day journey and were preparing to head into a remote mountain range in the Rockies, to teach school in a settlement called Elkhead. Dorothy’s letter described their stop overnight in Denver, their train ride across the Continental Divide, and their introductions to the locals of Hayden, whom she described as “all agog” over them “and so funny.” One man could barely be restrained “from showing us a bottle of gall stones just removed from his wife!” She closed by saying, “They are all so friendly and kind—and we are thrilled by everything. We start now—four hours drive. Goodbye in haste. . . .”

    Dorothy Woodruff was my grandmother. As I began reading the letters, I recognized her voice immediately, even though they were written by a young woman—twenty-nine years old, unmarried, belatedly setting out on her own. An avid correspondent, she captured the personalities of the people she met; the harsh landscape; her trials with a classroom of unruly young boys; and her devotion to Rosamond, known to my brothers and me as “Aunt Ros.” I also was struck by their unusually warm friendship with two men: the young lawyer and rancher who hired them, Farrington Carpenter; and Bob Perry, who was the supervisor of his father’s coal mine. They were eighteen hundred miles away from their families, and from decorous notions about relations between the sexes.

    The letters revealed the contradictions of Dorothy’s upbringing. She was a daughter of the Victorian aristocracy. Her forebears, like Rosamond’s, were entrepreneurs and lawyers and bankers who had become wealthy during the Industrial Revolution. In 1906, the young women were sent to Smith, one of the earliest women’s colleges, and afterward, they were indulged for a year with a grand tour of Europe, during which they saw their first “aeroplane,” learned how to blow the foam off a mug of beer, expressed disdain for the paintings of Matisse, and watched Nijinsky dance. Then, like other girls of their background, they were expected to return home to marry, and marry well.

    Yet they had grown up surrounded by the descendants of some of the most prominent reformers in American history, including the suffragists who organized the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, fifteen miles west of Auburn; and the man who overturned barbaric penal practices at the Auburn state prison, Sing Sing, and penitentiaries across the country. Auburn was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and some of the families they knew had hidden runaway slaves in their basements. Dorothy’s grandfather lived next door to William Seward, President Lincoln’s secretary of state. One day when she was visiting my family in Weston, Connecticut, she recorded an oral history, speaking with unerring precision about her childhood and about her time in Colorado. Retrieving the transcript of the tape, I was reminded of the breathtaking brevity of America’s past.

    I remember Dorothy as white-haired, impeccably attired, and sometimes stern. The second youngest of seven children, she grew up in a big hipped-roof clapboard house staffed by servants. Her bedroom and that of her younger sister, Milly, were in the nursery, reached by the back stairs. Raised largely by their nursemaid, they rarely stepped into the kitchen. When Dorothy’s four children were growing up, she didn’t know how to cook anything except creamed potatoes and hot cocoa. Every night she brushed her hair a hundred strokes with a French boar-bristle brush. She joked to us about her height—four feet eleven and shrinking every year. To reach her high mahogany four-poster bed, inherited from her parents, she had to use a footstool upholstered in needlepoint.

    She gave me tips in etiquette: how to file my nails, how to set a formal table, how to avoid acting “common.” When I was a slouching teenager, she showed me how she had been taught to walk across the room with a book balanced on her head. On my eighteenth birthday, she wrote to me: “To be happy it is necessary to be constantly giving to others. I do not mean to give in work alone—but all of your self. That means interest in other people—not only by affection—but by kindness.” She didn’t like the fashions of the 1970s—curtains of hair, tie-dyed T-shirts, and tight bell-bottoms—and once told me haughtily, “I never wore a pair of trousers in my life.”

    For all that, she was spirited and funny—not at all the deferential young woman she had been brought up to be. After she and Ros returned from Europe, they attended friends’ weddings, along with traditional luncheons and balls, but six years later, they were still uninterested in the suitors who were interested in them. Chafing at the rigid social routines and not getting anywhere with the ineffectual suffrage work they had taken on, they didn’t hesitate when they heard about two teaching jobs in Colorado. The nine months my grandmother spent there seemed to have shaped her as much as her entire youth in Auburn. She was full of expansive admiration for the hardworking people of Elkhead, and when she faced great personal difficulties of her own, she called to mind the uncomplaining endurance she had witnessed in the settlers and their children.

    She and Ros, like other easterners going west, were time travelers, moving back to the frontier. Although they ventured out after the first settlers, and went by train rather than covered wagon, their destination felt more like 1870 than 1916. They took with them progressive ideas about education, technology, and women—and postcards from their travels abroad. The homesteaders—motley transplants from across the country, Europe, and Russia—lived almost twenty miles north of Hayden. Effectively cut off from modern life by poverty and the Rocky Mountains, the pioneers found the two women as exotic as Dorothy and Ros found them.

    Although World War I was looming, such a cataclysm was unimaginable to Americans who knew nothing of combat. Dorothy sometimes talked disparagingly about her grandfather’s brother, who had avoided service in the Civil War by paying a substitute to take his place—a common practice among wealthy families in the North. Just weeks before Dorothy and Ros left for Colorado, President Wilson averted war with Mexico. The prevailing spirit among the elites of Auburn, the industrialists of Denver, and the homesteaders of Elkhead was an exhilarating optimism about the future.

    These people were swept up in some of the strongest currents of the country’s history: the expulsion of native tribes; the mining of gold, silver, and coal; the building of a network of railroads that linked disparate parts of the country and led to the settlement of the West; the development of rural schools; the entry of immigrants, African-Americans, and women into the workforce and the voting booth; even the origins of modern dance. Their lives were integral to the making of America, yet the communities they built, even their idioms, had all but vanished.

    As I got to know the children and grandchildren of the people my grandmother told us about, I began to see her story as more than a curious family history. It was an alternative Western. There were strutting cowboys and eruptions of violence, but the records the residents left behind turned out to be full of their own indelible characters and plot twists. Dozens of descendants in Denver, Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Elkhead, and Oak Creek had kept their family memorabilia from that year. Rebecca Wattles, a rancher in Hayden and the granddaughter of the secretary of the Elkhead school board, showed me the 1920 yearbook of the first five graduates of the school, all of whom had been Ros’s students. They wrote: “It isn’t the easiest thing in the world to buck trail for two or three miles when the trail is drifted and your horse lunges and plunges; nor yet to ski, when the snow is loose and sticky. But, if as we are told, it is these things that develop grit, stick-to-it-ive-ness, and independence—well, the children who have gone to school in Elk Head, ought surely to have a superfluous amount of those qualities.”

    One Sunday in early October 2009, my husband and I pulled up to an old white Georgian house on a cul-de-sac in Norwalk, Connecticut. We were greeted at the front door by Peter Cosel, one of Ros’s grandsons. He appeared to be mildly amused by my mission: a search for the letters that Rosamond had written from Elkhead. For a year I had been pestering him about going through the boxes he had in storage there. Peter called his brother Rob, also a lawyer, who arrived just as we finished a cursory examination of the attic treasures, including a trunk filled with papers dating back to the 1850s from a branch of the Underwood family that had settled in Chicago.

    I sat on the floor in front of a sagging box, blackened on the bottom from mildew and eaten away in spots by a squirrel, and began to unpack it, setting aside a stack of five-year diaries—fastidious chronicles by Ros’s mother of her family’s daily life in Auburn. Peter absently combed through some business documents of his great-grandfather’s, a man named Sam Perry, who—I soon learned—was one of Denver’s “empire builders,” a financier of the railroad that Dorothy and Ros rode over the Continental Divide. Rob sat on the edge of the bed and talked about childhood visits to their grandmother’s rustic summer cabin in the hills of Strawberry Park outside Steamboat Springs. Then my husband handed me a two-page typewritten letter. In the upper-right corner, it said, “Saturday Night. Aug. 6.” I looked at the closing: “Dotty and I can hardly believe that this school is really ours to command! . . . Lovingly ROSAMOND.”

    Ros’s entire correspondence was there, each letter typed, folded, and numbered by her mother. The letters had been written to her parents, who, like Dorothy’s, had left them for her children and grandchildren. Unwinding the string of a thick legal envelope, I looked inside. It contained dozens of articles and letters from October 1916. They confirmed the most improbable of all the tales my grandmother had told us, about the violent kidnapping of one of their friends. Sensational headlines were spread across the front pages from Denver to Los Angeles: HOW THE MILLIONAIRE’S SON WAS KIDNAPPED AND HELD FOR RANSOM; EXTRA! KIDNAPPER IS SLAIN.

    All of these papers and recollections, with their idiosyncratic details about the “settling up” of northwestern Colorado, provided a backstory to America’s leap into the twentieth century. And they filled out the saga about two cosseted women from New York who shunned convention to head out to what was still, in many ways, the Wild West.

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  • What People are saying about this

    From the Publisher
    “If you were impressed with Laura Hillenbrand’s efforts to breathe life into Seabiscuit—or wax romantic about Willa Cather’s classic My Antonia—this is a book for you.”—Grand Rapids Press

    Meet the Author

    Dorothy Wickenden has been the executive editor of The New Yorker since January 1996. She also writes for the magazine and is the moderator of its weekly podcast “The Political Scene.” She is on the faculty of The Writers’ Institute at CUNY’s Graduate Center, where she teaches a course on narrative nonfiction. A former Nieman Fellow at Harvard, Wickenden was national affairs editor at Newsweek from 1993-1995 and before that was the longtime executive editor at The New Republic. She lives with her husband and her two daughters in Westchester, New York.

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    Nothing Daunted 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 77 reviews.
    l_manning More than 1 year ago
    I loved this book! It was so amazing and inspiring to read not only about Rosamund and Dorothy but all the different people trying to make a life of it in Colorado. They really were working hard and making the best of what they had. Of course, the two women at the middle of this book were really fantastic. They approached everything before them with an open mind and good attitudes. Coming from very wealthy backgrounds, you don't see any indication that they think they are better than the settlers in Colorado. Ros and Dotty were determined to make the most of their experiences, and this shaped their entire lives. There was a lot of history given not only about our heroines, but also Colorado and the railroad there. Some of this was a bit dry to read. However, once the story in Colorado began in earnest, I was thoroughly engaged. I did not want to put the book down. I even found myself cheering for one potential suitor over another. You can clearly feel the personalities of the people coming through. Their stories have some interesting twists and turns, and I was so surprised by some things that happened. More than anything though, I felt like these were two women I could have been friends with. They lived their lives on their terms, and they were able to have some amazing adventures in the process. I think we could all stand to learn to take all the opportunities in our live with equal excitement. This was a great book, and I hope many people will take a chance to read it. Galley provided by publisher for review.
    Hoodo More than 1 year ago
    If you want to learn about an era of the West that is not familiar to most of us, read this book. It's educational, entertaining and fascinating. The author certainly is to be commended on her research and patience in gleaning enough to write about.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This book was extremely enjoyable. At first I thought the two upper class women were spoiled and lazy but their view of life at the school and their real life for the children made them very likeable and I found myself cheering them on remembering my first year as an inexperienced teacher. Some reviewers found the historical bits dry but I love history and turn of the century America is fascinating. I think this bits of history really brought their society and culture to live. I definitely recommend this book.
    Laura Stevenson More than 1 year ago
    Wickenden does a good job keeping in thbe little details of the history of these remarkable women. If you love history and a little adventure this is a great read!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden is a fantastic documentary of two girls, Rosamond Underwood and Dorothy Woodruff, on the journey to become teachers in Colorado during the 1920s. Both girls came from very wealthy families in Auburn, New York and went to one of the best colleges in the United States and they were two of very few women to be accepted to colleges during the time period. After their lives of luncheons and courting the same men became a bore, Dot and Ros decided it was time to make a change in their life. They traveled to Paris to help learn French and be exposed to another culture, but decided to return to New York to become teachers. During the time of the Homestead Act, Colorado was just starting to develop, and Ferry Carpenter, a homesteader in the West, needed two teachers at the new school in Routt County. He also wanted to find a wife, and Rosamond and Dorothy seemed to be the perfect fit for the new job. He convinced them to come to Colorado. After moving west, Ros and Dot learned to love Colorado and became the most wonderful teachers the new school had ever seen. All throughout the story, Wickenden uses their letters home from Routt County to make a wonderful book. The message of Nothing Daunted is to try something new and to go against all odds for a true passion and goal in life. By examining the girls, the reader can clearly see their dedication to teaching in Colorado even though it seemed so outrageous and risky during the early 1900s. Ros and Dot never once gave up during their journey and became a role model for other women during this time period. They had a passion very different from that of their parents, and decided to do something so different and adventurous that they would sometimes even doubt themselves. Both girls never gave up and tried their best to be different and discover their passion in life in a whole new way. Nothing Daunted had many historical aspects to it, and could make any reader learn and cherish the book. Both girls in the story were very relatable people for women today and the author gave them so much personality. The reader was really able to connect to Ros and Dot through the use of their letters and the wonderful imagery throughout the story. Some negative aspects of the book were the dry historical chapters and the extensive descriptions of the time period. Occasionally, the reader would become bored because Wickenden discussed what people looked like too much and give historical facts rather than telling the story of the two girls. Readers interested in history and women¿s rights should read this book, but understand there are some areas of the book that are very dry and hard to focus on. Another book like this to read would be the Little House on the Prairie series. Overall, the book receives 4 stars.
    SuzeJones58 More than 1 year ago
    Easy read about not too distant challenging circumstances. I highly recommend this book and am in the process of at least asking the older of my teenage daughters to read it. Why? As a counterpoint to the crass, crude and very depressing stories of the self-absorbed and entitled-feeling Kardashians, 16 &amp; Pregnant girls and all the other awful media personalities who influence (&amp; take down) our culture today. Regardless of how this story is written (yes - it could have been more lyrical), it is a WONDERFUL real-life story of two young women of substance, spirit, grit and adventure. I absolutely adore the epilogue (one of the most romantic end notes to a story I have ever read!). One fair criticism I feel I can write is, 'Gosh-darned, I really wish there were more photos throughout the book.' I cannot wait for someone to pick up the TV and movie rights to this book.
    peakbagger06 More than 1 year ago
    Dorothy Wickenden's account of two adventurous women who travelled to Colorado to teach rural children is outstanding. Wickenden's research blew me away. Saved letters are the basis of the book but her dogged work into the minutae of these women's lives while living for a year as single women in very rough country is a testament to her skills. So many interesting details make the book a delight. Children walking miles in the snow only to arrive at school crying from the cold; a dance school that attracts Agnes DeMille to choreograph dance for them; a main character is kidnapped and escapes; the women's hometown reaching out to their "sister" town by sending clothing, books and Christmas presents for their much needier counterparts. The two main characters are easy to like! A great read...would be a good book for high school students to read regarding history and perseverance.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I enjoyed and appreciated these very likable down to earth ladies who left their comfortable New York life of wealth and privilege and met and accepted a life of many sacrifices in early 20th century rural Colorado. They accepted much of their new lives with humor which added to the enjoyment of the book. Instead of being depressed and ready to call it quits during stressful times (truly stressful), they continue on with determination and dedication to this new life, new friends and their pupils, the school children, who are a very touching part of this book. There is a humorous conclusion to a long dark necessary night's horseback ride in deep freezing snow, an experience that would probably send most city girls back to the comforts of home, but not these two undaunted daring ladies. They find a surprising solution to this exhausting frightening journey and carry on. Humor and drama against the background of history with an interesting cast of characters who add to the enjoyment and appreciation of this adventure.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I loved this story about two adventurous young women from western New York State. One gets a great feeling about the West (Colorado) in its early days. I love reading books about smart women and this is a good one.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I can relate so well to Dorothy and Rosamond-- I just wish I had been alive when heading west was still an adventure. I couldn't put this book down once I started!
    JuliaInPa More than 1 year ago
    What a disappointment! I wanted desperately to love this, since it told a parallel story to my own great grandmother's life. Good lord, could it have been any drier? I hoped for more excerpts of their letters and diaries; instead there was way too much on the permutations of what people wore, ate and did for entertainment. This wasn't a treatment of women's journey toward independence, nor even a story of two intrepid teachers... It was like reading a travel journal written by someone who didn't want to dig too deeply into their experience.
    SissyAL More than 1 year ago
    I learned there were brave young women back in these early days. They were an inspiration to me.
    FunkyMonkey68 More than 1 year ago
    I really enjoyed this book. I love that it was a true story, written in their words. I am not going to go into what it is about, you can read the excerpt. I would definitely recommend this this book to other readers that enjoy historical biographies! Rosamund and Dorothy were amazing women!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This is an enchanting walk through the past. Whether you've grown up in the "wild west" or just dreamed about it, this book is a fun read, painting an incredible picture of life in rural Colorado when the world was still moving at about three miler per hour. You come to know the main characters intimately -- so much so that you hate the see this tale end!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I teach AP US history and I'm always looking for something new to have them read. This would be fine for a high school student.
    Joan50JM More than 1 year ago
    Would have liked more chapters on their teaching adventures. Too much background information.
    Alec Frank More than 1 year ago
    Ther was a lot of backgroud information added which did not really enhace the story of these adventurous young women
    Lelania More than 1 year ago
    I guess I expected more. I thought it was a little disjointed, slow and less interesting than I wanted it to be.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I loved this book, an account of the author's grandma and her best friend, who ventured to Elkhead, CO in the early 1900's to teach school in a one room schoolhouse, despite the fact that they had not been trained as teachers during their Smith College education. I devoured the story of very unusual female compatriots, who were brave and imaginative, craving experiences of self reliance and personal strength. They refused to settle for marriage straight out of college, opting instead for a year of travelling abroad together and then returning to see what else tempted them. The narrative was well-written, the pace quick, and the scenes were easy to conjure up in my mind. A warm, fascinating read by a proud granddaughter.
    mrmodel-t More than 1 year ago
    It's like reading a family diary. A little dry. Kind of interesting. It is well-enough written that you are drawn to the next chapter. No surprises, no imagination required. On the other hand, our country was founded by people like this and this story is one brick in that foundation.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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    prlady More than 1 year ago
    Admittedly, I am not a big fan of non-fiction reading...have enough reality in my life as it is and I read to escape. However, this story was interesting because of its historical content. The two women were obviously ahead of their time as they seemed to adapt to totally different surroundings more easily than most.