Flowers, May Queens, pretty girls in brightly-colored, loosely-swinging frocks dancing English folk dances on the green garth of an old Abbey, friendship, babies, and spirituality—this is the world of Elsie J. Oxenham’s Abbey Girl books, published between 1914 and 1959.These books written for girls and young women feature descriptions and appreciations of English morris, sword, and country dancing as well as homages of the founder of the English Folk Dance Society, Cecil Sharp, and his teachers.
Welcome to my “Dancing with the Abbey Girls” Project! I am indulging myself—and hopefully you, dear Reader—by examining each of the books in reading order, which is different from publication order. Why have I undertaken this project? Partly to introduce modern folk dancers to the world of the early days, partly to help non-dancing readers of Oxenham’s novels to better understand the dances (though some have gone on to become dancers already), and mostly because it gives me great pleasure to spend time with the Abbey Girls and Elsie J. Oxenham.