Lisa Schwarzbaum
June 16, 2011 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Nothing Daunted

Current Status
In Season
Dorothy Wickenden
Memoir, History

We gave it an A-

As a writer in search of a story, New Yorker executive editor Dorothy Wickenden was lucky to have such intriguing forebears: Wickenden?s grandmother Dorothy Woodruff was a young, single woman when, in the summer of 1916, she left the comfort of her ritualized society life in upstate New York and traveled with her close friend Rosamond Underwood by train and wagon and horseback to teach school in tiny Elkhead, Colorado. Even luckier for Wickenden as a family historian, the adventurous Yankee ladies?turned?visiting pioneers were enthusiastic letter writers, and the letter recipients were savers. 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. A?

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