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Esperance Girls Club

The Esperance Girls Club began in about 1888 for working girls of the West London Mission on the initiative of Mary Neal, then a member of the Mission's Sisters of the People. In 1891 she was joined by Emmeline Pethick (later Pethick-Lawrence). A major part of their work wa concerned wth drama and dancing, and in 1895 they broke away from the mission to found the club. The club also started a tailoring establishment, Maison Esperance to provide better employment opportunities for young women in the West End, with better than average pay and conditions. The Club had an annual outing and in 1901 established the Green Lady Hostel at Littlehampton, Sussex. In 1905, the Club became explicitly involved with the folk song and dance revival at first with the support of Cecil Sharp, who spoke at the Club's Christmas Party that year.

In 1906, girls of the Esperance Club began going out across Englad teaching the revived folk-dances, especially Morris Dancing.

In 1910, Mary Neal introduced a side of young men to dance alongside her girls and changed the name of the Club to the Esperance Guild. This continued in rivalry with Sharp's English Folk Dance Society until the outbreak of war in August 1914, after which it appears to have ceased activity.


From: Dictionary of British Women's Organisations 1825 - 1960