Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West” as Want to Read:
Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  4,026 ratings  ·  1,021 reviews
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 society luncheons, charity work, and the effete young men who courted them, they learned that two teaching jobs were available in a remote mountaintop schoolhouse a...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 21st 2011 by Scribner
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Nothing Daunted, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Nothing Daunted

Plainsong by Kent HarufNothing Daunted by Dorothy WickendenThe Shining by Stephen KingThe Song of the Lark by Willa CatherLittle Britches by Ralph Moody
Colorado
2nd out of 78 books — 29 voters
The Master's Plan A Novel About Purpose by Stephany TullisCowboy Heat by Delilah  DevlinBefore I Fall by Lauren OliverCircle of Five by Jan RaymondSacred Gold by Linda Rawlins
What I want to read this summer
113th out of 368 books — 493 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
The Library Lady
Looking at the author blurb I was appalled to find that she teaches a course in "narrative non-fiction" to college students. Has she taken such a course herself?

She apparently has a wondrous cache of letter and other materials from her grandmother (Dorothy) and from Ros, but instead of letting them tell the story, she tells it herself and her style is flat and uninspired. The first part of the book is particularly bad--I assume she wants to fill in lots of background before getting to the meat...more
Booknblues
One would think that when an editor of a renown journal decides to write about her grandmother’s year of teaching in Colorado in the early 20th century that she would take the care to make it interesting and exciting, but one would be wrong. Nothing Daunted ; The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden is an exceptionally dry tale that jumps all over the place instead of following in a chronological line and goes on diversions which are profoundly uninteresting...more
Jeanne
I was disappointed by this book. It is the story of the author's grandmother, who was a society girl who went to western Colorado to teach school in the pre-WWI era. So the back story is an interesting look at "society" and at the West, which is what I was hoping for. However, the telling of the tale falls short. The author uses many, many long quotes from letters, and intersperses background information (about the building of railways in the west, the various characters the two main characters...more
Akwhepworth
I loved the tale, but not the telling. The author seemed to include every minute bit of her research into the book, and it would have been so much better with some ruthless editing. Individual paragraphs would have a random sentence inappropriately thrown in, interrupting the narrative. Disorganized! And where were the pictures?! No picture section in the middle of the book, just a single photo at the beginning of each chapter that was frustratingly tiny. The author included plenty of descriptio...more
Susann
Jul 23, 2011 Susann rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of "Carney's House Party"
Returned this to the library weeks ago but am just getting around to my review. Maud Hart Lovelace fans, especially fans of Carney's House Party, will understand when I give this the alternate title of Win and Winkie Head West. It's the true story of Dorothy and Rosamond, two "society girls" from well-to-do Eastern families and graduates of Smith College (no, not Vassar, but close enough). In 1916, they set off on an adventure and accepted teaching jobs at a remote schoolhouse in Colorado.

The b...more
Jane
Going out to western Colorado to teach in a two-room schoolhouse in the early days of the previous century must've been a bit like going to Siberia for the Peace Corps. Reading this book made me proud to have been a teacher, though my circumstances were never so tough as these gals experienced (walking to school for a couple of months when my car froze up in Dickinson comes close). At the beginning I thought the author was padding the book with too much extraneous information, like a long disser...more
Lynne Spreen
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, it 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-dimensio...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
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 r...more
Gina
I could not stop thinking of this book as a screenplay with (obviously) Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter cast as the spunky, educated society girls who head to rural Colorado in the early 1900s to teach school for a year. Living myself 100 years later in rural Colorado about a two hour drive from where they lived, the book had some local interest for me. The ladies seem like absolutely delightful, adventurous people. The book had some issues, however. I couldn't stand the lack of pacing. I...more
Bridget
This is one of those books that has so much potential and falls so flat. A story about two young unmarried women heading out west to teach for a year in the early 1900's should be fascinating and filled with adventure. Unfortunately, the book is written in such a choppy and boring manner that it managed to bore me even during a kidnapping (undeniably the most interesting section of the book).

Relatively speaking, the amount of time spent on the actual women's lives in the west is minimal. Much o...more
Lisa
I usually don't care for nonfiction but love historical fiction. This book got such rave reviews and was on every major list of suggested reading so I thought I'd give it a try.
I found the book to be heavy on the name dropping and setting up of the story of how the girls came to teach in the west. I could have done without the whole first half of the book. But finally we got to the part of the story I wanted to read about and it was captivating. Imagine my surprise then when a little more than...more
Jane
Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood attended grade school and Smith College together. They spent nine months on a grand tour of Europe after college in 1910, and then, bored with society luncheons and chaperoned balls and no current prospects for marriage, they went off to teach the children of homesteaders in a remote schoolhouse on the Western Slope of Colorado.
Dorothy is presumably engaged during their 1 year term teaching but not much is mentioned about her future husband, nor do we get...more
Amy Carr
I thought I would LOVE this book but the author's organization and writing style were SO distracting, that it actually was really hard to get through. The actual story of these 2 young women was fascinating but it literally took the author over 100 pages to even get them to the remote school that they were going to teach at. There is SO much "historical" background to every single event in their lives that you get lost. For example, the girls finally board a train in Denver to travel the last le...more
Jennifer
This book should be renamed "Nothing to Do with Anything: The Unexciting History of Random People in Colorado." This book was absolutely painstaking to get through. The author took what should have been an interesting subject and made it painfully dry. It was also full of so many sidebars that it would be easy to forget what it was *supposed* to be about. If you want to read about the girls teaching in Colorado, skip to at least page 100. If you want to be taken on a journey of their entire live...more
John
A beautifully written and researched book by the executive editor of the New Yorker magazine. The heart of the story occurs in 1916-1917. Dorothy Woodruff (grandmother of the author) and Rosamond Underwood, both single women in their late twenties, spent the year teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in the mountains of western Colorado. Nothing in their previous life experiences--childhoods in wealthy families, college at Smith, a grand tour of Europe--is of much value in their new environment. Ho...more
Susy
I wanted to love this story which has the intriguing subtitle: The Unexpected Education of Two Scoiety Girls in the West, more than I did. Written by the granddaughter of one of the women, the story is based on her arduous research and collection of letters and interviews with surviving famiy members of the two ladies, but it's such a dry narrative.

Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamund Underwood, best friends and recent Smith College graduates, who have done a European tour, lived for a bit in New York...more
Melissa
Um, well...I usually finish a book on principal because I hate quitting anything! It's a matter of pride, I think. But in this case, I was getting ready for vacation, with a bag full of books. I started reading this one last night and just didn't enjoy it--the story never started. I really like reading more entertaining books in the summer and opted to get on with the other ones in my bag instead! This one didn't entertain...it bored me with details that never engaged me and after a decent amoun...more
Sara
2.5 stars. I wasn't sure if I'd finish this book, but I did, probably because the further I got in it, the more time I'd invested in the story and figured I may as well read until the end, as it was short (and I had started skimming). The actual story in this book was interesting, but it wasn't told in a way that commanded my attention, and because of this, the book ultimately failed to compel me in any way.

This is the true story of two society women from New York, Dorothy (Dot) and Rosamond (Ro...more
Carol
Recently I submitted a query to BookPage-Book Fortune looking for a few suggestions of non-fiction that would leave me breathless. I've had one of the books, Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden on my TBR pile since it came out in 2011. I decided it was high time I read it.

Eliza knows me almost as well as I know myself. Nothing Daunted was a great pick. Starting from the opening chapter where Wickenden finds a forgotten file folder labe...more
Karin
I expected this book to be about two society girls teaching in the west. The prologue explained that they were practically "old maids" (late 20s) and had spent most of their 20s traveling, etc, and explained how the author had come across her grandmother's (one of the society girls) letters that she had written while out west.

The next 75 pages expanded on how the girls spent their 20s. Lots of history and names of people who weren't central to the story or history itself.

The next 150 pages detai...more
Elaine
I wanted to like this book, I really did. I have been on the waiting list at the library for months...the plot is my kinda story. Two women leave the comfort of the Northeast for the early 20th century midwest to teach for a year...the non-fiction tale is based on the women's letters home.

The story was BORING, disjointed and uninteresting. I feel as though the author felt she had too little information, so there was LOADS of backstory, much of it not related to the women or their experience, and...more
Jennifer
I was a bit underwhelmed by this book. I do not necessarily fault the author - she worked well with the materials on hand (how lucky that many in the families preserved the letters) - but, in the end, there were only a few pages in the book that actually offered a look at life as schoolteachers in the west. By the time the story actually got interesting, it was over.

Still, there are some interesting scenes - the kidnapping of Bob, the story of the Christmas party - but not enough, I fear, for a...more
Amber
If this book had actually contained what was promised on the book jacket it would have been enjoyable. Author Dorothy Wickenden wrote this based on letters that her grandmother and the grandmother's friend wrote to family back home as they travelled from New York to Colorado in the early 1920's to spend a year teaching in a remote 2 room schoolhouse. Disappointingly Wickenden doesn't include even one of these letters in it's entirety, but rather pulls pointless quotes from them (occasionally) to...more
Julia Reed
Whew! Simply devoured this wonderful book. I originally became interested because, like me, the two amazing women featured were graduates of Smith College. But they attended in a very different time, when the post-graduation choices were extremely limited, even more so for high society ladies of upstate New York. They could get married, work for charities, get married, do "settlement work" (a more intense kind of working for charities), get married, or if they were especially ambitious, become n...more
Lori
what a disappointment!! I will be nice and give this a three. It is written by Dorothy Wickenden. A tribute to her Grandmother Dorothy Woodruff. In 1917 Dorothy Woodruff and her childhood friend Rosamond Underwood went to the "wilds" of northwestern Colorado to teach for one schoolyear. Dorothy and "Ros" grew up in in wealth in the late 1800s and early 1900s. attending private schools and college they spent a few years traveling in Europe.In their late 20s they accepted jobs as teachers. this ru...more
Sally Wessely
I had a very difficult time rating this book because there were aspects of the book that I really liked, but then, there were aspects that I did not like at all. I have come to believe that it is very difficult to write a narrative based on information gleaned from old letters, newspapers, public records, and oral histories. The story for this book was taken from all of these many resources. That meant that the story held a lot of interesting facts, anecdotes, and historical happenings. These we...more
Vikki
This is the true story of Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood who went to Elkhead,Colorado in 1916 to teach school. They were from the East and had graduated from Smith College. This story is written by Dorothy's granddaughter, who is now an executive director for the New Yorker.
I loved this story. I am very familiar with this part of Colorado so that was fun. And I just love to read about life in the early part of the twentieth century. So this book suited me just fine. The superintendan...more
Jillian Getting
Do not read Nothing Daunted if you prefer to armchair travel. Dorothy Wickenden's account of her aunt's travels into the West in 1916 with her best friend will inspire you to pursue an adventure - at minimum a road trip.


Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamund Underwood were two society girls in Auburn, NY when they decided they needed something more in their lives than volunteer work and luncheons. They learned about a request for college-educated women to teach the children of Elkhead, Colorado. Dorothy...more
Alex Templeton
I believe this book was based on an article that author (and New Yorker executive editor) Dorothy Wickenden wrote for that magazine, and that I read when it was published a while back. I think this was a case where the short form of the story appealed to me. Using letters and various other primary sources, as well as interviews with family members, Wickenden reconstructs the story of her grandmother's journey, along with her best friend, from New York society to teaching in a small Colorado mini...more
Steve Iman
Great read as a "this is how the west was Really won" with outstanding authentic detail on places, things, social manners as things were and seemed when the West was full of optimistic hard scrabblers living way close to the ground. The naive progressives found themselves good work outside of settlement houses, they were unaffected by social distinctions, and were much catered to by gentlemen on the frontier. Some have criticized the book with it's sometimes long discussion of side issues, thoug...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
What did you learn? 8 58 Aug 15, 2014 03:37PM  
Weston County Lib...: * July 2012 1 9 Jun 12, 2012 10:35AM  
  • The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR'S Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience
  • Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits
  • The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush
  • The Story of Charlotte's Web: E.B. White's Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic
  • If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home
  • Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats
  • Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock
  • James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon
  • A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation
  • Claiming Ground
  • Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest to Clean up Sin-loving New York
  • Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer
  • The Arrogant Years: One Girl's Search for Her Lost Youth, from Cairo to Brooklyn
  • The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century
  • Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Broker
  • Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War
  • The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America
  • Lions of the West: Heroes and Villains of the Westward Expansion
1302166
Dorothy Wickenden became the Executive Editor of The New Yorker in January 1996. She joined the magazine as Managing Editor in March 1995. She also writes for the magazine and is the moderator of its weekly podcast "The Political Scene." Wickenden is on the faculty of The Writers' Institute at CUNY's Graduate Center, where she teaches a course on narrative nonfiction.

Previously, Wickenden was Nati...more
More about Dorothy Wickenden...
The New Republic Reader: Eighty Years of Opinion and Debate

Share This Book

“A freshman had to wear a black turtleneck sweater, corduroy trousers, and a little black cap called a ‘dink’ on the back of his head,” he wrote in his autobiography, Confessions of a Maverick” 0 likes
More quotes…