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.
Read the posts! Remember that they are in reading order, with some interpolations of additional titles and commentary.
Join me in “Dancing with the Abbey Girls”
First Generation, Second Generation, Retrospective, Connectors and “Abbey Time”
A03_The Girls of the Abbey School
A07_Schoolgirl Jen at the Abbey
Elsie J. Oxenham, Measles, and Quarantine in the Time before Covid-19
Elsie J. Oxenham and The Two Form Captains
A11_The Abbey Girls Go Back to School
Reading and Buying the Abbey Girls Books
A17_The Abbey Girls Win Through
Some Musings on Elsie J, Oxenham and Her World
A21_Biddy’s Secret; A Romance of the Abbey Girls
A22_Rosamund’s Victory; A Romance of the Abbey Girls
A23_Maidlin to the Rescue; A Story of the Abbey Girls
A24_Joy’s New Adventure; A Romance of the Abbey Girls
Cecil Sharp’s Elementary and Advanced Folk Dance Certificates, 1912
The Girl Guides’ Folk Dancer Badge
Dancing Honour and Honour Your Partner
A25_Rosamund’s Tuck Shop; A School Story
Camp Fire, Part I: Origins and Influences
Camp Fire, Part II: Participating in the Early Days
The Kirkby Malzeard Sword Dance and Captain of the Fifth
Camp Fire, Part III: American Series Novels for Girls
Elsa Puts Things Right and The School of Ups and Downs
What Does the May Queen at Miss Macey’s School DO, Exactly?