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

by Dorothy Wickenden

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7374030,844 (3.52)37
"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. "A captivating full-length book derived from a widely read and much beloved New Yorker piece about Wickenden's grandmother and her grandmother's best friend who left their affluent East Coast lives to "rough it" as teachers in the wilds of Colorado in 1916"-- Provided by publisher.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
I stand by my statement that this is a charming book. The two young women went from one world to another, and not only coped but flourished. It was fascinating reading about the histories of the people and places involved. Dorothy and Rosamond are vivid correspondents, and I got a real sense of the culture shock they experienced going from a prosperous upper New York state life to a bare-necessities Colorado homesteading one. It was nifty to me that this all happened in the twentieth century, so I'd be reading about them taking sponge baths in the freezing cold every morning, and then about them getting a ride somewhere in someone's car, or calling someone on the phone. It was a mixture of historical and modern that I found appealing. ( )
  Bookladycma | May 18, 2024 |
This was an easy and enjoyable read, but I did not find it to be very deep. In 1916 two "society girls" ventured to Colorado to teach school, though they had no idea how to teach. This is primarily the story of their year of teaching based on the detailed letters they sent to their families, and through the author's further research to enhance the story, both with background information on the girls, and with contextual information about their environs and the people they met. ( )
  mapg.genie | Apr 30, 2023 |
The first half of this book really brought my rating down. The book starts with the two women arriving in Colorado and describes their first impressions. So far so good. I settled in for a good read. Then the author spent about 100 pages writing about their lives before they got to Colorado, establishing perhaps, the comforts and privilege to which they were accustomed. This takes up nearly half the book (please review the full title of the book if you're stumped as to why this bothers me enough to mention it twice), once you subtract all the pages of notes, acknowledgements, bibliography and index. And it was written in a meandering way which I found very distracting. She would be writing about an aspect of their lives, like the college they attended, and then veer suddenly into a long tangent describing the history of the school and the many famous people connected with it. She did this a lot. It did not make for a very smooth narrative, and not all of the tangents were interesting. Even when they were, the effect was still jarring. It makes me wonder how many people quit reading the book before the author switched to a more linear style of describing their time in Colorado.
It's too bad, because that last half of the book is the best part. I didn't get a good sense of their personalities and spirit until then. The description of their lives before Colorado had felt more like a list of events and activities. From this, I only got a vague impression of a couple of rich girls who pretty much did and got what they wanted. I didn't really see any heart to their story until I read about their time in Colorado. The second half of the book was much more interesting and inspiring; the narrative, assembled from a collection of letters, interviews, newspaper articles and legwork on the part of the author, was far more impressive.
I couldn't bring myself to give this more than 2 stars, but I do think the 2nd part is good enough that I'd still recommend it. I'm not a skimmer (I either read every word or I quit), but for you skimmers out there, I would advise skimming most of the first 100 or so pages. ( )
  Harks | Dec 17, 2022 |
I kept waiting for this book to have something in the way of plot or at least fascinating personality -- after all, it is about 2 adventurous girls having an unconventional adventure -- that would seem to be extraordinary fodder for both plot and character. Instead it's more of an atmospheric read. I learned a lot of minutiae about life in the 1850s, some of which really did not seem to relate to the larger story at all, but I never got any real sense of the women involved and even when something did happen it was presented in such a drawn-out and slightly boring manner that I didn't really care. ( )
  jennybeast | Apr 14, 2022 |
An interesting, engaging look at the experiences of two society women who taught for a year in turn-of-the-century Colorado. ( )
  tsmom1219 | Feb 24, 2022 |
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for Hermione and Caroline
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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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"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. "A captivating full-length book derived from a widely read and much beloved New Yorker piece about Wickenden's grandmother and her grandmother's best friend who left their affluent East Coast lives to "rough it" as teachers in the wilds of Colorado in 1916"-- Provided by publisher.

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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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