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 March, 2007

1967: Personal Products

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

Apologies for not posting lately, been a bit busy at work and with the social life. One of my recent activities has been planning my trip to Paris — I’m going for work but hopefully will have a little time to see the city. Already stressing about what to pack (I tend to overpack normally, but got a smaller suitcase this weekend so need to be good this time), I turned to a new book in my collection for help. There are plenty of packing tips in Frances Koltun’s Complete Book for the Intelligent Woman Traveler, published in 1967, but I thought this advice about “personal products” was more fun to share with you. After reading these, I bet you ladies will be glad times have changed just a bit since the 60s. I am, particularly when thinking about those sanitary towels.

Even women who are normally level-headed about snakes, how much to tip a mahout or what to do for impetigo, find themselves at a loss about how much to pack in the way of personal products, the beauty industry’s euphemism for sanitary napkins, et al. I still remember a traveling companion on a trip to Europe who filled one of her two suitcases with boxes of Kotex because she was sure she’d never find any abroad.

Her apprehension belonged to the era of steamer trunks, motoring veils, and 10-day ocean crossings. Today, American products such as Kotex and Tampax are found in nearly every major country of the world. You have only to walk into a large, centrally located drugstore to find them. . . .

There are some local variations you may want to know about: In England, sanitary napkins are called sanitary towels, and have loops at either end. As these are exported to several countries in the world, you may run into them from time to time. In French, they’re called garnitures périodiques; in Spanish, they’re toallas sanitarias or higiénicas; in German, damenbinden; in Italian, assorbenti igienici; in Swedish, sanitets bindan; in Japanese seiritai. With these languages at your command, you can manage anywhere should an “English-speaking” pharmacy be unavailable, or should the chambermaid in your hotel not speak English. (If a sudden need arises, she’s the one to ring for.) . . .

If you’d like to start out armed with some sort of protection, Kotex puts out a box of individually wrapped napkins — eight for 39 cents — that’s fine for traveling. Or break up a larger box, wrap each napkin in Kleenex and stuff it into corners of your suitcase or among the layers of your underwear. Don’t be embarrassed or have nightmares about going through customs (which does happen to young women going abroad for the first time) with Kotex or Tampax in your luggage. You can be sure that the officials are thoroughly familiar with these products and won’t even give them a passing glance.

oops – archive problem

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

A friend tipped me to a problem with my recent blog archives. I think I figured out the problem and it seems fixed. Sorry about that!

Happy Engagement Julie and Bob!

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Just a quick cheers and hooray to my friend Julie, of the fabulously fun Tacky Treasures, and her soon-to-be husband Bob. If you’re looking for any marriage advice, you know where to look, right guys?

1913: Ventilation

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

It’s been in the 70s this week in Washington, D.C., which has been lovely (though snow is predicted for Saturday). This has allowed me to turn off the heat and open the windows for the first time in months. I love sleeping with the window open, even if only for these flukey few days. All this good weather got me thinking about fresh air. The following is from a 1913 texbook called General Hygiene.

Need of Ventilation — Exchanging the impure air of a room for air which is pure and fresh is called ventilation. A small room will require complete change of air within an hour if only one person is in it. A large room will require a complete change of air within a few minutes if many persons are in it. A schoolroom, church, or other meeting place needs to be ventilated all the time that it is in use, for the air will become unwholesome within a few moments, unless a stream of fresh air is constantly flowing into it.

How to Ventilate — Some air will pass in and out of a room through cracks in its doors, windows, floor, and walls. Well-built houses have few cracks, and only a little fresh air will enter them, unless openings are made to the outdoor air. One way of ventilating a room is to open a window. This is often the only way to get fresh air into a room. It is easy to ventilate a room that is heated. Warm air is lighter than cold air, and will rise to the ceiling, like a cork on water. When the upper sash of a window is lowered, a stream of foul air passes out above it. Fresh air enters the room between the two sashes, and through cracks in the other parts of the room. If foul air passes out of the room, we may be sure that other air enters the room. When the lower sash of a window is raised, foul air sometimes passes out through the opening, and sometimes fresh air blows into the room through the opening, but whether the foul air blows out, or fresh air blows in, the air of the room becomes changed.

Wow, I never knew that opening a window was so complex. Wait — there’s more!

Ventilating Bedrooms — Some persons think that a bedroom does not need to be ventilated during the night if it is aired well during the daytime. A person sleeping in a small, closed bedroom will cause the room of fresh air to become foul within an hour after he goes to bed. He will then breathe foul air through all the rest of the night, unless he ventilates the room. Many suppose that a person will not be harmed by breathing air which he himself has made foul. Impure air is as poisonous to the person who makes it foul as it is to another person who may breathe it.


I probably shouldn’t have posted this right before heading to bed!

Free Books!

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

No, not free books for you, sorry. Unless you head over to where I was yesterday afternoon — The Book Thing in Baltimore, Maryland, where you can take as many free books as you can carry (really!). It’s a fabulous place, particularly for an addict like me. I hadn’t been in a few years, so went with my new friend D. yesterday and we found 22 titles for the Miss Abigail collection. Favorites include:

~~Complete Book for the Intelligent Woman Traveler (should help me on my trip to Paris next month)

~~one from the author of another favorite — Live Alone and Like It. The newly found book is titled Keep Going and Like It for the over 60s crowd

~~a 1930 medical book with slightly disturbing (yet humorous) photographs titled Mental Aspects of Stammering

~~and, complete with instructions for paneling your refrigerator, How to Apply Paneling

See the full list of new additions freshly cataloged on Library Thing.

1949: Nine to Five Shift

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

Life at work has been a bit hectic this week. How does a last-minute office move while there are seemingly a zillion things to do sound? Yeah, exactly.

Still trying to think happy thoughts, I turned to the books to see if I could find any tips that would help us all get through the mess of a big move. I actually found a pamphlet while packing up my desk that could be handy: “How to Deal with Stress.” But I also checked the books at home, and found this tidbit from The Betty Betz Career Book: The Teen-Age Guide to a Successful Future. In it, Betz offers all sorts of advice for getting and keeping a job, include this one for when things get a little troublesome:

Even in the smoothest-run office things sometimes get bungled up, but try not to let your temperature rise to a boiling point. No matter how unfair a situation seems, hysterics, tears and temper won’t set it straight. Worse yet, running to your fellow workers to blab your problem will just cause trouble. Keep calm, button up your troubles and everything will work out sooner or later. When it does, you’ll be glad that you didn’t blow your top, for that never gets you any place. Chances are that a day after the big pow-row you’ll forget the whole thing and be busy working on some other project.

OK, everyone–back to work!

1923: Toasts (for a Christening)

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

During some recent interviews, reporters asked if I ever take my own advice. I use most of my books for reference for the Web site and all things related, but there are occasions when they come in handy for personal advice (if friends or other sources can’t help out). Such as today, when I was stumped as to whether to get my nephew a christening present, and what. I poked around in the books and found that a book or item of clothing would be ok (I’m not the most religious person so feel odd getting him something with a cross on it).

With that settled, I read a bit more about christening etiquette, and thought you would enjoy the following from the Book of Good Manners. Who knew that toast were appropriate for this occasion?

Toasts—usually offered by one of the godfathers when a momentary lull in the table-talk affords an opportunity—may be proposed in the following terms:

“Let us unite in wishing Master Henry Morton long life, health and happiness!”


“Miss Helen May White—to her health, wealth and happiness!”

Rising and touching glasses the guests may respond:

“Long life and prosperity! Good luck to him! (or her!)”

So, with that in mind:

Let us unite in wishing my nephew Master Manual Antonio Perez III long life, health, happiness, and wealth!