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

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Man, I am 0-for-2 this week in finishing books. I couldn't get through this one, either.

I was interested in it because the protagonists are two young women from upstate New York, and it's the true story of their going out to the frontier (in Colorado) to be schoolteachers. Unfortunately, the book is very dry in tone, with lots of telling rather than showing. The nature of the source material (letters, news stories, etc.) necessitates minimal dialog, but boy, it's intimidating to read paragraphs of infodump.

Someone else more interested in the economics, politics, and fashions of the time might have an easier time than I did. I just didn't get much of a sense of the *women* involved. ( )
  Pat_F. | Jul 25, 2014 |
I was a bit underwhelmed by this book. The potential for a ripping good story is there but I felt bogged down throughout the first half...second half is better but then it's over. An excerpt made a great New Yorker piece and maybe that was enough. ( )
  m2snick | Feb 19, 2014 |
Wickenden builds so much from letters and archival research—love the librarian acknowledgements. My overall impression is of a blithe several years spent traveling and teaching, all trials borne with wry humor. Makes [b:These Happy Golden Years|77770|These Happy Golden Years (Little House #8)|Laura Ingalls Wilder|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348250247s/77770.jpg|4132] seem almost racy in comparison. Read-with list coming soon. ( )
  amelish | Sep 12, 2013 |
Mostly loved this. It moved along quickly at first, but then bogged down in history lessons. Then it picked up again with our characters and rollicked along. I'm not sure we needed all the historical context she gave us, it made the story stop dead at times. But it was worth it to meet these fascinating women. i do love a plucky pioneer gal, even one just dabbling in it for a few months. ( )
  mazeway | Aug 29, 2013 |
One of my favorite things to do when reading nonfiction titles is to look at the pictures. Whether there is an insert of glossy pictures in the middle of the tome or they are interspersed throughout the book, I linger on those images because the people come to life for me. I enjoy looking at their clothes and surroundings, and I’m always surprised at how normal they look. With a current haircut and wardrobe, they would be the people that I know today. The pictures in Dorothy Wickenden’s Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West are particularly fascinating.

As the title suggests, Dorothy Woodruff and her best friend Rosamond Underwood go west in 1916 and just before First World War. They had lived a privileged upbringing that included college at Smith and a year in Europe. But when they were disinterested in the young men hovering around them and felt the need for adventure instead of marriage, they applied to be teachers in a very rural school in Colorado. They move west and endure the hardships of living on a Homesteader’s ranch and traveling by horseback to work every day in the long and cold winter months. Both women said that year was the most formative of their lifetime.

The story seems improbable except when you look at the pictures. It is the images of Dorothy and Ros on horseback and with their students that confirm what you really can’t believe. And my favorite picture is one of Dorothy’s granddaughter, the writer, who visits Ferry, a central figure of the story in 1978. That image connects the lives of two young women from 1916 to their later generations in a more current time period. History is that cool. ( )
1 vote BBleil | Jun 25, 2013 |
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Prologue: 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.
July 27, 1916
A passenger train pulled into the Hayden depot at 10:45 PM with a piercing squeal of brakes, a long whistle, and the banging of steel shoes against couplers.
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The author tells the story of her grandmother Dorothy Woodruff and Dorothy's friend Rosamond Underwood, two society girls in upstate New York, who left home in the summer of 1916 to take jobs as teachers in the tiny Colorado settlement of Elkhead, drawing from their letters home, interviews with descendants, research, and trips to the region to reconstruct their adventures and discuss their lasting influence on their young students and others they met.
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"A captivating book about Dorothy Wickenden's grandmother, who left her affluent East Coast life to "rough it" as a teacher in Colorado in 1916"-- Provided by publisher.

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