In the summer of 1916, Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood, close friends from childhood and graduates of Smith College, left home in Auburn, New York, for the wilds of northwestern Colorado. Bored by their soci-ety luncheons, charity work, and the effete young men who courted them, they learned that two teach-ing jobs were available in a remote mountaintop schoolhouse and applied—shocking their families and friends. “No young lady in our town,” Dorothy later commented, “had ever been hired by anybody.”
They took the new railroad over the Continental Divide and made their way by spring wagon to the tiny settlement of Elkhead, where they lived with a family of homesteaders. They rode several miles to school each day on horseback, sometimes in blinding blizzards. Their students walked or skied on barrel staves, in tattered clothes and shoes tied together with string. The man who had lured them out west was Ferry Carpenter, a witty, idealistic, and occasionally outrageous young lawyer and cattle rancher. He had promised them the adventure of a lifetime and the most modern schoolhouse in Routt County; he hadn’t let on that the teachers would be considered dazzling prospective brides for the locals.
That year transformed the children, their families, and the undaunted teachers themselves. Dorothy and Rosamond learned how to handle unruly children who had never heard the Pledge of Allegiance and thought Ferry Carpenter was the president of the United States; they adeptly deflected the amorous advances of hopeful cowboys; and they saw one of their closest friends violently kidnapped by two coal miners. Carpenter’s marital scheme turned out to be more successful than even he had hoped and had a surprising twist some forty years later.
"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)
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Not as Described
- sara "Avid reader/listener/reviewer"
Interesting but not Great
I expected this to be a book about the two main characters, school teachers in remote Colorado in 1916-17, as told in their letters home. Instead it was a history of Colorado (railroad, Denver, education system, etc.) at the turn of the century, with the eastern women as characters in the overall drama of the development of the west. It was interesting and informative as a history of Colorado. I probably would have liked it better had I expected that. Very few quotations from the actual letters were included, which frustrated me. I give the book a moderate rating as an interesting story. The two main characters were strong women and worthy of reading about.
- Amazon Customer "I have been an avid reader since I was a young child. I love a well-told tale and narration that brings it alive."