Latest News: Faculty Engagement Corps Journal Day 2: Homecoming
Society girls head West
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Dorothy Wickenden will read from Nothing Daunted, her book about the adventures of her grandmother teaching homesteaders on the western slope of the Rockies at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, in Prairie Lights Books and on a live stream at the University of Iowa Writing University website www.writinguniversity.org.
Wickenden's grandmother, Dorothy Woodruff, and Rosamond Underwood attended grade school and Smith College together, spent nine months on a grand tour of Europe in 1910, and then, bored with society luncheons and chaperoned balls and not yet ready for marriage, they went off to teach the children of homesteaders in a remote schoolhouse on the Western Slope of the Colorado Rockies.
They traveled on the new railroad over the Continental Divide and by wagon to Elkhead, a tiny settlement far from the nearest town. Their students came to school from miles away in tattered clothes and shoes tied together with string.
Nearly a hundred years later, Wickenden, executive editor of The New Yorker, found the buoyant, detailed, colorful letters the two women wrote to their families. Through them, interviews with descendants, and historical research she has chronicled their trials in the classroom, the cowboys and pioneering women they met, and the violent kidnapping of a close friend.
Central to their narrative is Ferry Carpenter, the witty, idealistic, and occasionally outrageous young lawyer and cattle rancher who hired them, in part because he thought they would make attractive and cultivated brides. None of them imagined the transforming effect the year would have—on the children, the families, and the teachers.
Maureen Corrigan, the author of Fresh Air, wrote, "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."