Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood were from the East Coast, they came from good
families, well-off, living in Auburn New York, a wealthy enclave in the Finger
Lakes District. The young women were
bored, and wanted an adventure before settling down. Ferry Carpenter from Colorado offered just
such an opportunity: in 1916 they would go west to teach school for a while
before returning to their rather cushy lives.
They never went back. Arriving in
the west, they rather expected to find hicks.
Instead they found people they respected, a rugged but rich life, and a
place to call home. They rode to school on horseback, looked in amazement at
the Colorado landscape, and became part of the community. This book is rich in detail on the lives of
settlers in Colorado. If you like
history and intrepid women, it is a feast.
Fall '12 Reading Group List
“This is the biography of two spunky young Smith graduates who, in the early part of the last century, bucked the trend and society's expectations and hired on as school teachers in a remote area of Colorado. The history and period detail is compelling and brings to life the hardships and courage of the Colorado settlers and the bright and brave spirits of Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood. I wish I'd known them!”
— Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO
The acclaimed and captivating true story of two restless society girls who left their affluent lives to “rough it” as teachers in the wilds of Colorado in 1916.
In the summer of 1916, Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood, bored by society luncheons, charity work, and the effete men who courted them, left their families in Auburn, New York, to teach school in the wilds of northwestern Colorado. They lived with a family of homesteaders in the Elkhead Mountains and rode to school on horseback, often in blinding blizzards. Their students walked or skied, in tattered clothes and shoes tied together with string. The young cattle rancher who had lured them west, Ferry Carpenter, had promised them the adventure of a lifetime. He hadn’t let on that they would be considered dazzling prospective brides for the locals.
Nearly a hundred years later, Dorothy Wickenden, the granddaughter of Dorothy Woodruff, found the teachers’ buoyant letters home, which captured the voices of the pioneer women, the children, and other unforgettable people the women got to know. In reconstructing their journey, Wickenden has created an exhilarating saga about two intrepid women and the “settling up” of the West.
About the Author
Dorothy Wickenden is the author of Nothing Daunted and The Agitators, and has been the executive editor of The New Yorker since January 1996. She also writes for the magazine and is the moderator of its weekly podcast The Political Scene. A former Nieman Fellow at Harvard, Wickenden was national affairs editor at Newsweek from 1993-1995, and before that was the longtime executive editor at The New Republic. She lives with her husband in Westchester, New York.
“If you were impressed with Laura Hillenbrand’s efforts to breathe life into Seabiscuit—or wax romantic about Willa Cather’s classic My Antonia—this is a book for you.”—Grand Rapids Press