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 August, 2006

1923: Classroom Manners

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Sharpen your pencils, plug in your keyboards – it’s back to school time! To bring in the new year, I was going to share with you something from Gael Greene’s Sex and the College Girl, but it seemed a bit too scholarly for this crowd, with all those statistics about young virgins and loose girls. So instead, here’s some advice for the younger set. This excerpt is from the Everyday Manners for American Boys and Girls by the Faculty of the South Philadelphia High School for Girls (New York: MacMillan Company, 1923). There’s a whole chapter devoted to classroom manners; I’ve selected a few highlights for you:

The traffic rule, Keep to the right, applies to classrooms as well as to streets and corridors. If you keep to the right, and leave a passageway at your left, you will make entrances and exits easy.

When you enter a classroom go at once to your own seat. Put into your desk everything you will not need for that period. Nothing looks worse than a roomful of desks littered with piles of books, packages of lunch, baseball gloves, and oranges.

Never borrow books, inkwells, pens, or pencils from the teacher’s or a pupil’s desk without asking permission. Never sit in the teacher’s chair unless the chairmanship of the lesson has been given over to you. Never stand close behind a teacher’s desk, except when talking to her. The books and papers on her desk are her private property. You have no more right to examine her papers or read any writing there than you have to read other people’s letters.

Interruptions of any sort are just as rude in the classroom as anywhere else. If you raise your hand while another pupil is reciting, you interrupt him. Often the sight of hands waved madly in the air breaks one’s train of thought and makes it impossible for one to go on. If you wish to ask or answer a question, wait until the one who is reciting has finished and until the teacher recognizes you. Try to break the hand-waving habit.

Never ask a new question until the one perviously asked has been answered. That, too, is an interruption. Do not answer a question addressed to some one else.

If you do correct some one, do it tactfully. It is often the manner in which the correction is made, not the correction itself, that hurts. The one who is corrected should accept the criticism courteously.

Do not make fun of other’s mistakes. To laugh reasonably at an amusing remark or happening is natural, but it is rude and unkind to make a boy or girl feel ridiculous.

At the end of the period, do not gather up your books until the signal for dismissal has been given. Never rattle paper or stand poised for flight while some one is talking.

If you are the first one to leave the room, fasten the door back. If it cannot be fastened, hold it open for the person behind you. He should hold it open for himself as soon as he reaches the door. Doors should never be slammed, but always closed quietly.

Some of these could be useful at the office, now that I think about it.

Playing House

Friday, August 25th, 2006

I’m back from my vacation/wedding/book signings trip! I’ve actually been back since Sunday but this first post-trip week back at work has been a killer. I’m zonked. I promise to post more about my adventures in New England in the next few days. You’ll be happy to hear that I found some great books in New Bedford, but alas they are in my mom’s van — I came home on the train and they were too heavy to lug back — so I can’t share the titles until I retrieve them.

Anyway, while I continue to gather my thoughts and settle back to normal life, here’s a resource featuring digitized homemaking manuals for young girls from the 1877 to the 1930s, brought to you by University of Wisconsin Digital Collections:
Playing House: Homemaking for Children.

I’ve had a good time browsing the collection so far. Perhaps you all would like to teach your little ones to sing the ironing song, from Mabel Louise Keech’s Training the Little Home Maker, by Kindergarden Methods (1912)? What fun!

Brattleboro Blogging

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

Hi all, wedding #1 and book signing #1 are done. I’m in Brattleboro, Vermont, right now, enjoying the cool temps, low humidity, and the easy to settle into rest and relaxation. Did a radio gig this morning on WKVT with Steve West and Gorty Baldwin to promote the booksigning tonight, that was tons of fun! Oh, and I picked up one new book for the collection yesterday in downtown Brattleboro, titled Sleep (it felt appropriate, I had just finished an afternoon nap). Some pictures from the trip so far:

Mom and Jim stayed at a hotel near my grandma’s house that had this great stove/sink/cabinet/fridge combo, probably circa 1950s? Mom’s holding up the lid to the unit, which flips down to make more counter space:

Me at Borders in Cheektowaga:

Just-picked vegetables from Chris and Lise’s community garden plot (yum!!!):

WKVT this morning:

Road Trip!

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

I am heading out tomorrow for my crazy vacation/wedding attending/book tour. As a reminder, I’ll be reading, signing, and Q&Aing; at the following locations:

Saturday August 12
2015 Walden Ave., Cheektowaga, NY

Tuesday August 15
Everyone’s Books
25 Elliot Street, Brattleboro, VT

Thursday August 17
Baker Books
69 State Rd, North Dartmouth, MA

I’ll post from the road when I get a chance.

While I’m at it, congrats to cousin Jason and his new bride Jessica in Buffalo, and to cousin Tom and his new bride Heather (getting hithed in Connecticut). Sadly, I cannot invite all of you along to the weddings, but I’m sure I’ll have fun celebrating!

1925: Things that Turn Men Against You

Sunday, August 6th, 2006

Oh, my. You’re going to love this one. I found it in Elinor Glyn’s This Passion Called Love (1925) while looking in the books for something for a friend to read at her cousin’s wedding rehearsal dinner last weekend (never fear — she did not read this one).

As we can tell by a sampling of the table of contents, Glyn devotes quite a bit of room in this book to hanging on dearly to the one you love: “How to Attract the Man You Desire”, “Keeping a Man in Love,” “Why Love Often Dies,” “Preserving the Romance and Glamour of Love,” “Outwitting the Other Woman and the Other Man”… and so forth. You get the idea.

This excerpt is from the chapter on “Little Things that Turn Men Against You”:

Here are a few little things that greatly lessen a woman’s charms in most men’s eyes:
Red hands or arms.
Finger nails too highly polished or shaped like swords.
Fat women with bobbed hair.
Hair that is “doctored” in any way.
Cheap perfumes.
Whiney voices.
Earrings like chandeliers.
Knickers in the city.

Oh, don’t think the men are off the hook. Glyn wrote this in the chapter titled “Winning the Woman You Love”:

I wonder how many romances owe their ends — if the truth were known — to the man having revolted the senses of sight, scent or hearing of the woman! For never forget the love emotion is entirely dependent upon the reaction created upon the senses.

Affection can continue through offended senses, but no the love thrill. The most faithful spirit cannot feel responsive to passion if the other person smells unpleasant or is revolting to sight or hearing.

So, girls, do be very particular in yourselves, and absolutely exact refinement and delicacy in your sweethearts!