“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
In the summer of 1916, Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood, recent graduates of Smith College, left their wealthy Auburn, New York home for the wilds of Colorado. Lured to the West by Routt County rancher Ferry Carpenter, the young women were to be the new teachers at a remote schoolhouse in the tiny settlement of Elkhorn.
Dorothy Wickenden (executive editor of the New Yorker, and grand daughter of Dorothy Woodruff) recently found a neglected stack of family letters that reconstructed the young women’s adventures. And that’s the exciting starting point for Wickenden’s Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West — a spirited tale of testing one’s limits in a fresh new landscape.
For Dorothy and Rosamund, the sense of a new world dawning came early:
“Although intent on their mission, they had bouts of overwhelming nervousness about what they had taken on. During the ride to Chicago, they took notes from the books on teaching that Dorothy had borrowed from a teacher in the Auburn schools. They also re-read the letter they had received the previous week from Carpenter:
My dear Miss Woodruff and Miss Underwood,
I was out to the new school house yesterday getting a line on how many pupils there would be, what supplies and repairs we would need, etc. …I have not heard from you in regard to saddle ponies, but expect you will want them and am looking for some for you….
I expect you are pretty busy getting ready to pull out. I you have a 22 you had better bring it out as there are lots of young sage chickens to be found in that country and August is open season on them.
With best regards to you both I am very truly,
Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood — Elkhead, Colorado, 1916
Hear from author Dorothy Wickenden, and learn more about the “unexpected education of two society girls in the West”!
Here’s a few more volumes from the Land Library’s collection on Women in the West!
So Much to be Done: Women Settlers on the Mining and Ranching Frontier, edited by Ruth Barnes Moynihan, Susan Armitage, & Christiane Fisher Dichamp, A Mine of Her Own: Women Prospectors in the American West, 1850-1950 by Sally Zanjani
Working the Land: The Stories of Ranch and Farm Women in the American West by Sandra Schackel, Covered Wagon Women: Diaries & Letters from Western Trails, edited by Kenneth L. Holmes, et. al. (Volume 2 of an eleven volume series), Cowgirls: Women of the American West by Teresa Jordan