I have not done a lot of traveling, but I have moved a lot. In the process of those moves I have traveled across the country too many times to count. But I have not really stopped anywhere and experienced the cultures or seen many sites. I have been to most of the states in the continental United States and I have even been to a few of the Canadian provinces, but most of these experiences were brief rest stops on my way to final destinations that were as exciting as, well, Rexburg, Idaho.
It has been a dream of mine to see different places in the world. But I hate traveling. I get airsick, carsick, and seasick. Because of this, my traveling experiences are limited. The women in the book I am reviewing for this week had no such issues and found the world at their disposal despite the limitations of the early twentieth century.
“Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West,” by Dorothy Wickenden, is the true story of Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood, two close friends and graduates of Smith College who spent their time touring the world for fun until happening upon teaching jobs in the wilds of northwestern Colorado.
These two high society girls from Auburn, New York are tired of their luncheons, charity work, and the silly young men trying to court them for their money. They set out on an adventure to teach in a remote mountain-top school in the Wild West.
They endure long rides by horseback to the schoolhouse every day. They survive blinding blizzards. They come to love and care for unruly children who have never heard of the Pledge of Allegiance, who ski to school on barrel staves, and whose clothes are no more than rags tied together with string.
The year Dotty and Rose spend in the West changes not only their lives but the lives of all of those who live in the tiny settlement of Elkhead, Colorado. There are many cowboys vying for their attention, and they see one of their dear friends kidnapped by two coal miners.
This true story is captured in letters home by Dorothy and Rose, as well as interviews with descendants of the young women and with descendants of those who grew to love them in Elkhead. The story is delightfully thrilling and exciting. I learned so much about the western United States in those early years of the twentieth century that I did not know before.
I love to read historical nonfiction. It makes me feel smarter than I am. Most of the time I read novels. Lately, I have been reading a lot of paranormal fiction and young adult fiction because of requests for reviews. It was nice to change things up a bit with this fun and witty trip with two society girls.
Growing up on the East Coast, I did not learn western history. I did not learn about the building of the railroads. I knew that there were cowboys and western towns—I mean, I am a huge fan of “Little House on the Prairie”—but I really had no idea how recent this history was.
This book gave me a small glimpse into the history of our great Wild West. After reading this book about two brave and inspiring girls, I do feel a little bit smarter, and maybe a little more adventurous.