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Extended Audio Sample Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West, by Dorothy Wickenden Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Dorothy Wickenden Narrator: Dorothy Wickenden, Margaret Nichols Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “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

  • “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.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Wickenden uses personal history to illuminate the larger story of manifest destiny.”

    New Yorker

  • “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

  • “An enchanting family memoir…A brilliant gem of Americana.”

    Washington Post Book World

  • “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.”


  • “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.”

    Fresh Air

  • “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

  • “Dorothy Wickenden has crafted an exquisite book.”

    Boston Globe

  • “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

  • A New York Times Bestseller
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