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

Dorothy Wickenden
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (208 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $10.38
You Save: $5.62 (35%)
Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description

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.

In their buoyant letters home, the two women captured the voices and stories of the pioneer women, the children, and the other memorable people they got to know. Nearly a hundred years later, New Yorker executive editor Dorothy Wickenden—the granddaughter of Dorothy Woodruff—found the letters and began to reconstruct the women’s journey. Enhancing the story with interviews with descendants, research about these vanished communities, and trips to the region, Wickenden creates an exhilarating saga about two intrepid young women and the “settling up” of the West.


Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

Review

“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 Details

  • File Size: 1891 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (June 21, 2011)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004G8QNG2
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,971 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
105 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Americana June 21, 2011
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.
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91 of 104 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thorough but not compelling June 26, 2011
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.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Historical Book June 20, 2011
By Lisa
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.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Labor of Love That is Hard to Love September 15, 2011
Format:Hardcover
This was a labor of love on the part of the author. Her grandmother, Dorothy Woodruff, was one of the two intrepid high society East Coast young ladies who set off for Colorado in 1916 to spend a year teaching in a rural school. A lot of research went into the preparation of this book, and there are certainly some interesting bits of history sprinkled throughout. Unfortunately, it's just one big bundle of digressions, which made it a torture for me to get through. I did finish it, but I cannot recommend it with enthusiasm.

I won't write a long review dwelling on the book's flaws, but the constant digressions are the most frustrating thing about it. Every time you think the story's going to pick up steam and start living up to the title, it veers off onto some new historical path. For example, when Dorothy and Ros are riding the train from Denver up into the mountains, Wickenden takes off on a long boring narrative about the building of the Moffat Tunnel and the railroad they're riding on.

I really did like Dorothy and Ros, and I admired their adventuresome spirit and willingness to roll with the punches when they encountered situations so different from their sheltered, affluent upbringing. I think their experiences deserve a more focused and colorful presentation than is given in this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A Historial retrospective on Colordo
This is as much a history of. Colorado in the early 20th century as a story of. 2. unusual young women. The teaching events, duties, & conditions have been told many times. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Coffee Lover
4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing Daunted by D. Wickenden
I liked the book. I did think the author dwelled too long on the society part of the girls early life. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Cyrus Dean
4.0 out of 5 stars Early 20th century American west
This is really the story of the people who lived in the American West in the early 20th century. Colorado was populated by true American independents who neither asked their... Read more
Published 10 days ago by DKF
4.0 out of 5 stars A life fully lived
I was completely pulled into the life of these two wealthy accomplished young women. Their daring and fearless attitude added depth to their lives and made them impossible not to... Read more
Published 16 days ago by At Home Barrista
2.0 out of 5 stars good premise, falls short
A good and intriguing idea however it fell short. Did not keep my attention as I thought it would. It jumped around and fell short of fleshing out the characters. Read more
Published 1 month ago by JEM
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommend
Anyone who likes histories and biographies will probably enjoy this book. Very interesting to think of the enormous impact women had on an entire community.
Published 1 month ago by Morgan Klein
4.0 out of 5 stars lovely account of the taming of the west
Moving account of how young people braved remote, difficult and amazing country to settle parts of this beautiful country. They were adventuresome, brave and full of perseverance. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jane Baker
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
Good Story, well documented facts and historical timeline. The pictures are great. I can see why the author chose to write about these two brave ladies.
Published 1 month ago by KellyH
5.0 out of 5 stars great history novel
Great novel written by granddaughter of one of the gals who went west back about the time women got the vote. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Libby
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Colorado settlement story
This book was impeccably researched, and the writer knew her subjects well. A great story for those of us who adore the history of the early west. Get it today! Read more
Published 1 month ago by Susannah
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