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 February, 2007

Bust magazine: Tales from the Dating Crypt

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

My author buddy Diane Mapes published an article in Bust magazine (the Feb/Mar 07 issue) titled “Tales from the Dating Crypt,” and I’m quoted! She takes “aim at some tenacious myths surrounding courtship that have plagued single women for centuries” and thereafter “blow[s] them out of the water for good.” I’m cited in paragraph two, talking about the myth regarding girls asking boys out (being a no-no, that is, at least in the olden days).

Other myths that Mapes covers:
~Never pay for a date
~Men don’t like smart women
~If youre over 40, you’re dead to men
~Women who don’t marry are tragic figures.

You can pick up the magazine up at hipper stores and newstands (do those even exist anymore?) or order from their site.

And MetaFilter, too

Monday, February 19th, 2007

I just checked my stats and realized I got a ton of referrals from MetaFilter the other day. Welcome to you all, too!

Recent Press Mentions

Monday, February 19th, 2007

I’m slowly recovering from the activities of last week. The long weekend helped! Meant to post earlier about these two write-ups from last week. Here they are:

The first was on The Washington Express web site–unfortunately I didn’t realize the interview was being transcribed, so there are an embarrassing number of “so, like, ” phrases in there. I sound like I’m seventeen! I guess that’s fitting. There was also a mention of the LC booksigning in the print edition of the Express, which is distributed all over the Washington METRO, on Wednesday.

The second was a feature in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I got a copy of the print version on Friday, they had a big section of old advice excerpts as well. Nice…

Welcome Express and Plain Dealer readers!

Single State of the Union Now Shipping

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

Just a note to let you know that Single State of the Union: Single Women Speak Out on Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Happiness is now shipping from Amazon. I contributed an essay, using classic advice for the unmarried, titled “Single Blessedness.”

More about the book in this previous post.

Classic Valentine’s Day Advice

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

Advice for Valentine’s Day – you know you want it! I’ve covered this quite a bit in previous years, so here are a few links tidbits that you might find useful today.

Confused about this whole “in love” thing? Check out this excerpt from Elinor Glyn’s 1925 This Passion Called Love.

Trying to pick the right flowers to give your sweetie? See The Language of Flowers from 1907.

Wondering how to express your love in writing? Skip the email and get out that pen. Some sample love letters here.

Plenty more love advice where that came from.

And finally,

Single and happy? You’ll love this one, from a book titled Live Alone and Like It.

Miss Abigail

Reminder: Love and Chocolate at the Library

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

If all goes well and the weather doesn’t force the federal government to close all day, I’ll be speaking tomorrow–about my collection, the Web site, the book, and love advice–at the Library of Congress. I’ll also be signing books while attendees partake in some fabulous chocolate treats and browse a display of etiquette, romance, and household technology books from my collection and the Library’s collection.

Here are the details:

Date: Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Time: 11:30-12:30
Place: Library of Congress, James Madison Building, 6th floor, Dining Room A (floor map)
And, the press release for more info.

We will go on with the program if the Library is open. Check the Library’s homepage in the morning for closing information.

Hope to see you there!

Valentine’s Day LibraryThing Book Pile

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

LibraryThing (where I am slowly cataloging my book collection) is having another book pile contest, and this time we’re invited to submit a Valentine’s Day pile, among other topics. How could I resist?

Here’s my entry:

For those of you curious about the books I used, here they are top to bottom:
~Love’s Coming of Age, 1911
~Unmarried Love, 1965
~Love and the Facts of Life, 1967
~The Philosophy of Love, 1923
~How to Keep Romance in Your Marriage, 1954
~Married Love, 1927
~The Art of Loving, 1956
~Facts of Life for Love and Teenagers, 1956 (oops, essentially a dupe of Love and the Facts of Life, above)
~How to be Happy While Single, 1949
~Every Girl is Entitled to a Husband, 1963
~The Doctor Looks at Love and Life, 1929
~How to Pick a Mate, 1946
~Secrets of Love and Marriage, 1933
~How to Pick Up Girls!, 1970
~The Power to Love, 1957
~Encyclopedia of Love and Sex, 1972

1869: Draw Up An Advertisement

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

Oh my. Here we are in 2007, thinking we’re all so clever using the internet and newspaper classified ads to find dates and mates, but we’re not. I stumble across a quote from 1869 (yes, 1869!) suggesting that men having trouble finding a wife might want to take out an ad in newspapers. Widely circulated newspapers. Lots of them.

The book? The Science of a New Life, by John Cowan. Here’s an excerpt:

Do not regard it as absurd and wrong if I advise you to do precisely as a farmer would, who, desiring to purchase a farm, and having examined all within his country that are for sale, and finding none that will suit him–he advertises….The world, in its progressive, onward march, with its thorough intermixture of race and quality, offers a broader and wider field for the selection of a rightly constituted mate, than does the narrow field of a village or city ward, and the people of this wide-world area can in no better way be reached than through the advertising columns of the newspaper.

You draw up an advertisement, stating in as few words as possible your idiosyncrasies, and inviting replies from only those who imagine they approach your standard character. You insert it in one or more papers of large circulation, and it is read by thousands of marriageable women, and among them, it is possible, the one who would make you an unapproachable mate, and who, of course, could not possibly have ever heard of you other than in this way. A correspondence is commenced with a score of more of those having an appearance of suiting; a phrenological analysis of the character of each is requested by you [there’s an earlier section of the book that suggests this as an important step in the courtship process; I will spare you the details], and which, being received, is compared and returned; presently the right one is discovered, and an engagement follows.

Miss Abigail again: The author goes on to discuss the pros and cons of this sort of thing. Pros include “it allows an immensely wide field for a right selection” and something about the “Law of Choice… in writing unfolding each other’s characteristic traits; or, what is more preferable, more desirable…” and again he repeats the benefits of that phrenological chart. Cons: “Characters of impure formation … probably have adopted this way of securing a victim to their lustful natures.” Hmm… he seems to blame women for that one. Let’s skip ahead. He sums up his theory about the benefits of advertising yourself in the paper this way:

It needs no argument to show that there is something radically wrong in the present mode of mate-choosing. The every-day records of family quarrels, scandals, separations and divorces, too sadly prove the fact that the present method of forming matrimonial alliances must in some measure be changed, if a happy and enjoyable married existance is desired.

A few readings

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

I’m on a few archives-related listservs at work and stumbled across a couple of things this week that I thought readers of Miss Abigail might be interested in:

1) An article in the Guardian about the discovery of some historic papers showing how girls in the U.K. were educated, including “housewifery,” where the girls were taught to “test the freshness of eggs, remove stains such as ink, coffee and tar and arrange a home laundry.”

2) An interview with Daniel May, archivist at MetLife. I once corresponded with someone at the MetLife archives — might have been this guy. I own quite a few of the early health and home guides that they published (he talks about them in the interview). I wrote to ask a question and ended up providing him with some information they didn’t have! To see a bit of MetLife advice, visit He’s a Bust with Dust, which contains an excerpt from 1898 (I said when I originally posted this that it was their earliest, that could be what we corresponded about, can’t recall).