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Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by [Wickenden, Dorothy]
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Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West Kindle Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Description


“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

Product Description

The acclaimed and captivating true story of two restless society girls who left their affluent lives to “rough it” as teachers in the wilds of Colorado in 1916.

In the summer of 1916, Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood, bored by society luncheons, charity work, and the effete men who courted them, left their families in Auburn, New York, to teach school in the wilds of northwestern Colorado. They lived with a family of homesteaders in the Elkhead Mountains and rode to school on horseback, often in blinding blizzards. Their students walked or skied, in tattered clothes and shoes tied together with string. The young cattle rancher who had lured them west, Ferry Carpenter, had promised them the adventure of a lifetime. He hadn’t let on that they would be considered dazzling prospective brides for the locals.

Nearly a hundred years later, Dorothy Wickenden, the granddaughter of Dorothy Woodruff, found the teachers’ buoyant letters home, which captured the voices of the pioneer women, the children, and other unforgettable people the women got to know. In reconstructing their journey, Wickenden has created an exhilarating saga about two intrepid women and the “settling up” of the West.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 9289 KB
  • Print Length: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (June 21 2011)
  • Sold by: Simon & Schuster Canada, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004G8QNG2
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #784,595 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x98cfc6e4) out of 5 stars 312 reviews
117 of 124 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a9737ec) out of 5 stars Pure Americana June 21 2011
By Story Circle Book Reviews - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West, paints a picture of the lives of two Victorian women who break from tradition to pursue their youthful passions. The author's grandmother and her friend received the best education available to women at the time and still yearned for some real world experiences. Formal education at Smith College, and learning abroad both paled in comparison to the time Dorothy Woodruff spent out West as a "working girl."

Woodruff's granddaughter, Dorothy Wickenden, tells the story of these two individuals who were brought together for nine months in Elkland, Colorado. A portrait emerges of two worlds in 1916--the predictable, comfortable life in the upper-class society of the industrialized East Coast and the remote, hardscrabble life on the western frontier. The author breathes life into the stories of men and women on the frontier by researching and reconstructing Dorothy Woodruff's letters and memorabilia.

This book is a fascinating glimpse into the social milieu of the period, along with insight into the personal lives of two families of considerable social standing in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. The story has it all: romance, intrigue, adventure, politics and family histories. At times the narrative reads like a mini-series on the history of upstate New York with accounts of notable suffragettes, abolitionists, and politicians. Auburn, NY has a proud history as a hub of political reformers and a hotbed for social justice. Wickenden characterizes the town as a world where "Sons and daughters inherited their elders' names and their fortunes." I felt as though I came to know Dorothy Wickenden's charming grandmother through her own words.

As she responds to her new life in the wilds of Colorado, Dorothy's exuberance shows as she says, "You simply can't conceive of the newness of this country." The letters are edited in such a way to evoke the gamut of emotions the young women felt on their journey. There are twists and turns in the narrative like the railroad tracks winding through the Rocky Mountains.

Readers interested in the nascent history of women's rights and the related issues of opportunities for women will likely appreciate this author's work, as well as find out what could possibly allure two young women to live in a place so different from their home.

by Martha Meacham
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
101 of 115 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x997d42a0) out of 5 stars Thorough but not compelling June 26 2011
By Lynne Spreen - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is about two wealthy and vivacious young women who, feeling unchallenged by their upper-class prospects in the early 1900s (marry well, have children, support philanthropy - yawn) rebelled by applying for jobs as school teachers in a primitive Colorado frontier town.

As a historical work, Nothing Daunted was comprehensive but not always compelling. For example, I thought the descriptions of some of the peripheral characters were too detailed. As a memoir, the main characters were a bit one-dimensional, they went here and there, seeing and doing this and that, but without any sense of their emotional reactions.

That last point is what I found most daunting about this book. I didn't connect emotionally with any of the main characters, although the schoolchildren, esp. Tommy Jones' crying about having received no sweater, were more compelling. I wondered if the girls ever got depressed about their circumstances (waking up in the morning wearing a light dusting of snow)? Did they feel sad about leaving their students after that wonderful year? Were they ever moved by the contrast between their students' poverty as compared to their own affluence?

It must be difficult to insert imagined emotion into the characters of historical figures, but since the author imagined other unknowable aspects, I believe it wouldn't have undermined the integrity of the work to have interjected this for the sake of the story. However, if the main mission of the book was to describe the landscape of the era, it succeeded very well.
54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x991ea324) out of 5 stars Wonderful Historical Book June 20 2011
By Lisa - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99852f18) out of 5 stars Great story, but not a great book Oct. 3 2011
By Elle - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The real-life story of these two women is fascinating - unfortunately, the book is a bit of a slog. It's bumpy reading that feels like Wickenden isn't comfortable in the voice or format she's chosen. I'm puzzled as to why she approaches this story as a dry historical account, instead of crafting an adventure novel about Dorothy and Ros: their courage, choices, trials, romances, etc. (ala Jeannette Walls' Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel). All the elements of a great story are here - just buried under pages of historical context. Odd editorial choice.

Despite that, I pushed through the book because I was so deeply interested in Dorothy and Ros. I wanted to know about their lives after the year in Elkhead, too. But the `wrap up' in the book's final pages is equally unsatisfying.

I wanted to love this book. I'm glad I read it, but it really doesn't do service to the lives of these brave women. It's not a book I'll add to my library. This one gets passed along. Perhaps someone else will enjoy it more than I.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a3445ac) out of 5 stars not what I hoped for! Sept. 2 2011
By bookaddict - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I am sad to say this one of a very few books I will not finish. I absolutely love reading, and history, but this is just too boring for me to continue. At almost half way through, I really don't care what happens to the characters, its time to quit.
I feel almost as if this is a school based history book and there will be a test on facts at the end. Too much detail in other side stories, and not focused enough on the adventure these young women are embarking on for me. When I decided to start another book, and looked online to see what the reviews for this book were, I was surprised that so many were favorable.
I purchased this book after reading a favorable review in a magazine, I guess maybe its me....but, so many books, so little time....I am moving on