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

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

by Dorothy Wickenden
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Overview

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

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781410456359
Publisher: Gale Group
Publication date: 03/27/2013
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 511
Product dimensions: 8.60(w) x 5.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About 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. 79 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 & Pregnant girls and all the other awful media personalities who influence (& 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.
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
I read this book a couple of years ago and couldn't put it down! It is a wonderfully written story! I highly encourage you to read this book!
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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.
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