Who is Miss Abigail?

Abigail Grotke
Silver Spring, MD
email: missabigail at missabigail dot com
twitter: @DearMissAbigail

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Miss Abigail has a collection of over 1,000 classic advice books, spanning from 1822 to 1978 and covering a variety of topics, from love and romance to etiquette and charm. The collection sparked the idea for this site, then a book, Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, which has inspired an Off-Broadway production of the same name!


Archive for April, 2006

Miss Abigail discusses “First Impressions” on Open Grove

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

I recently had a fun conversation with Claudia from The Open Grove. The topic was making a good first impression, and our chat appears online in their Impression Audio Magazine. Wander on over to their homepage to hear me read a few excerpts from the site and book.

And welcome Open Grove listeners! One of the quotes I read from, titled “Everyone Wants To Be Liked” can be found here. The other, about cleanliness, can be found in my book, Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage.

If you’re itching to test yourself on how much others will like you, see this helpful questionnaire. For other tips on good grooming, charm, personality, and poise, visit this page in my advice archives.

Sears Catalog Blog

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Click on over to the 1902 Sears, Roebuck Catalog blog to see fabulous advertising gems from the turn-of-the-(previous) century. Readers of Miss Abigail will enjoy Dr. Worden’s Female Pills and the entry for Regret Cards.

I’m also getting a kick out of the Single Goat or Dog Harness. Could come in handy!

1953: Driver Safety

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

The other night it was raining pretty hard, and while I was sitting in my living room watching my beloved TIVO, I heard some sirens (not uncommon as I’ve got a firehouse and hospital within a few blocks) get closer and closer, and then suddenly a dramatic crunch. I ran out onto the front porch and saw a large EMT truck – something between a firetruck and an ambulance – stopped a few houses up, with people tumbling out, cursing. Apparently they’d skidded off the road and up over a curb, landing in a median that happened to have a couple of large boulders, which stopped the truck in its path. Luckily, everyone appared to be ok and the vehicle was gone by morning. I just hope wherever it was headed had a backup!

Anyway, the road curves in front of my house and people drive too fast, so I’d been expecting something like this to happen. And having just read about a new study out by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, traffic safety has been on my mind. I’m happy to say I don’t drive a whole lot during the week, so I miss commuters putting on makeup in their cars and reading the paper or checking their email while driving (egads!).

I have a few safety-related books so decided to look up what were the cause of accidents in earlier, less-technologically advanced days. Here’s a description from the 1953 book for for junior high kids titled Safety Challenges You (Chicago: Beckley-Cardy Company):

It is always important… that a driver be free from physical defects that may interfere with good driving. Reports to the National Safety Council from state traffic authorities showed that in a recent year seven per cent of drivers involved in fatal accidents had bodily defects and ten per cent were asleep or overtired. Defective hearing, poor eyesight, and illness were listed as the principal bodily defects. The first two can usually be corrected, and keeping physically fit is a safeguard against illness.

The figures given above do not include physical and mental unfitness due to alcohol. While not all accident reports include this information, the picture is too plain for anyone to ignore.

While sleepiness and alcohol are a constant danger even today, this whole business about illness and bodily defects doesn’t seem to be an issue any longer. Unless you count Blackberry addictions as an illness.

1929: The Morning Grouch

Monday, April 17th, 2006

I came across this little gem while preparing for an upcoming interview with a Web site called Open Grove. It’s from a book titled Lovely Ladies: The Art of Being a Woman, written by Dare Frances (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1929).

As mornings aren’t really my thing, I had to laugh:

The morning grouch is one mood that actually has its roots in the physical. But it is nurtured and strengthened by indulgence. Yet, if you would be truthful with yourself, the mornings that you overcome this unpleasantness merge into more interesting and amusing days than do the other mornings. Or perhaps you don’t know this because you have never tried it?

Okay, okay! I promise I’ll try to overcome my unpleasantness, starting tomorrow morning.

Grumble grumble.

More on the party

Friday, April 14th, 2006

My friend Nina wrote:

“What a *fabulous* party! It was so fabulous I felt obliged to blog about it. Make sure to check out the rollover captions on the pictures…”

Thanks, Nina!

Book party report

Thursday, April 13th, 2006

The Miss Abigail book launch party, which was held at the Warehouse Gallery on Tuesday, April 11, was a smashing success if I do say so myself! Much fun was had by all. Thanks to Olsson’s Books and Records who showed up to sell copies (thanks!) of Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage. And thanks to John and Sarah for their wonderful performances as Jim and Mary. I feel confident that the crowd learned a lot from you both!

I’ve posted some pictures from the party here.

1923: Entertainment (part 2)

Sunday, April 9th, 2006

Last time, in preparation for my Miss Abigail book launch party, I brought you some tips for the party hostess. Now, some additional excerpts from Everyday Manners, for the guests:

When you are invited, come at the time set by your host or hostess. If you are asked to come at eight, that is when you are wanted, not at nine…

Take an interested part in the entertainment provided, even though it is not the kind you would have chosen. It is very selfish and rude to withdraw to a corner with one or two others and laugh and talk with them, while you take no part in the games planned. If each one does his best to make the party a success, it will be the best kind of success for all….

Do not grow too noisy. You can have a good time without shrieking. Remember that the neighbors may be forming a poor opinion of your hostess because of the loudness of your mirth.

Do your part in giving the shy guest and the stranger a happy time. Do not imagine that such a guest is entertained by hearing you converse gaily with others on subjects that are unknown to him. You must make him feel that he is one of your number.

If entertained in the evening, do not stay too late. The time when refreshments are served gives an indication of the time your hostess expects you to depart. Usually from three-quarters of an hour to an hour after refreshments are served is an appropriate time to take your leave. When leaving, shake hands with the hostess and tell her how much you have enjoyed the evening…. Be sure to say good night to the parents of your hostess ~ telling them how greatly you have enjoyed the party.

If you are obliged to leave before the others do, it may be well to say good night quietly and slip away without attracting the attention of the other guests. If, however, you are on very friendly terms with them all, it is pleasanter just to pause in the doorway and say, “Good night, everybody.” The main point in making your exit is to impress your appreciation to every one who has had a hand in entertaining you, and at the same time to make your going inconspicuous. Remember, it is not a feauture of the evening’s entertainment.

Hmm… that no shrieking rule really puts a damper on things.

1923: Entertainment (part 1)

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

Since I’m throwing myself a book launch party (see previous post) I thought I’d look up some advice on entertaining a group. The following, geared toward me, the hostess, is from a book authored by the “Faculty of the South Philadelphia High School for Girls” (according to my permission research for the book, no longer in existence). The title is Everyday Manners for Boys and Girls (New York: MacMillan Company, 1923).

If you are entertaining a group of people, be sure that the entertainment is of a kind in which all can take part. Do not have dancing if you know that one or two of your guests do not dance, unless you have provided other entertainment for them, or they themselves insist that they would enjoy watching.

Be equally agreeable to all guests. See that you get an opportunity to be friendly to each one. Look out especially for shy guests, or those who are strangers to most of the people present. Try to make them feel at ease by bringing them into the conversation, explaining to them the things about which you are talking. Give the rest of the group a little information about strangers, so that they can more easily converse with them; for example, “Mary has just come to Philadelphia to live. Tell us about your experience down town this morning, Mary. Did you get lost?” . . .

If a subject of conversation is touched upon which you know may be disagreeable to one of your guests, it is your place to turn the conversation into another channel.

Ah, good to know. I’ll try to remember this next week!

In a few days, I’ll post some tips for partygoers, from the same book.

Book Launch Party!

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

Time to celebrate!

I’m having a book launch party for Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage next Tuesday evening, April 11, at a cool place called The Warehouse in downtown Washington, D.C.

If you’re in the D.C. area and are interested in coming, send me a note via the blog comments form with your email address (I won’t post it to the blog, don’t worry) or email me at missabigail at missabigail dot com and I’ll send you the Evite with all the details.

(Space is slightly limited so I’m trying to keep track of those who might be coming…)

Hope to see you there!

-Miss Abigail

Sex Habits of American Women

Sunday, April 2nd, 2006

This afternoon I caught a matinee production of The Sex Habits of American Women at the Signature Theater in Arlington, VA. The set design was fantastic and the costumes were fabulously 1950. The play was entertaining enough; I’m no theater critic so won’t go on and on. I’m a book girl!

So I ran home to see if I had the book that the play was inspired by: The Sex Habits of American Women written in 1951 by Fritz Wittels, M.D. Couldn’t locate it on my shelves but did find some other post-Kinsey Report titles that I’d forgotten I have:

Sexual Behavior of American Nurses by W.D. Sprague, Ph.D (1963). The back cover text tantalized would-be readers with the following: “In this country, as in almost no other place in the world, nurses are looked upon with a mixture of awe and curiosity. What are they really like beheath those prim white dresses and starched caps?” You’ll have to pick up a copy to find out for yourself.

Or how about this one?

The Sexual Conduct of Men & Women by Norman Lockridge, from 1956. Here’s a little excerpt to whet your appetite, from a chapter titled “What a Man Expects of a Wife”:

Looking for a Little Quiet
If he wants quiet, he expects quiet. He does not expect and he does not have to put up with two “quiet” tables of bridge in the afternoon, with interminable arguments over who led trump, and who trumped what ace, punctuated with gruesome gossip, while he is trying to concentrate. He does not expect to be called upon to play the chevalier in the evening ~ if the evening is when he does his work ~ and squire his giddy spouse around to the hot-spots till all hours of the morning, only to wake up at two the next afternoon with a boiler-factory headache, trembling hands, a mouth that tastes like the bottom of a bird cage, and the sickening recollection of a wasted evening combined with the sinking prospect of another, considering his present state of jitters.

Um, yeah, it’s all HER fault! Sheesh.