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, 2010

1956: Your Lingerie Trousseau

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

I’m in the midst of wedding planning, which amazingly is going quite well, thanks to the fact that I am not worrying one bit about where people are going to sit, and whether the napkins will match the flower girls’ dresses. Oh, and having a wonderful sister who is an experienced event planner helps!

There is an amazing amount to get caught up in in the wedding industry mania, so to ground myself and to think about what’s truly important (like marrying the person you love), I’ve been reading some of the old wedding guides in my collection. Certain that having a “theme” (isn’t marriage the theme?) and “colors” (how about all colors? I like color!), are relatively new “traditions,” I was looking through one book from 1956 for something to back me up. However, I got a little distracted by this information, from Wedding Etiquette Complete written by Marguerite Bentley. What ever happened to the tradition of the lingerie trousseau? I think we should bring this one back.

Assembling your lingerie trousseau can be a thrilling task, because the items you will buy are so dainty and beautiful. Here is your chance to indulge in your fondest wishes, but you must use your head as well as your heart in the selection of the pretty things you like best and will need most in your new life…. In our great-grandmother’s day muslin nightgowns with dainty bits of embroidery were as useful twenty years afterwards as the day great-grandmother was married. This is not so today. Styles change, and new lingerie additions are refreshing notes to a wardrobe only too soon. You should, however, purchase enough lingerie to last for the first year or two with plenty of changes; this matter must be regulated by your future mode of life. If you intend to have a maid or maids in your household who will launder your lingerie carefully on stated days, more garments will be needed than if you intend to wash out each piece yourself in your small apartment the day after wearing it…

Three types of lingerie always seem to me to be the general basis of every trousseau. First and foremost – and here you may indulge your heart’s desire – the bridal set! This may be as fragile and unutterably lovely as you care to purchase, as it’s a once-in-a-lifetime buy. On the other hand, you may prefer to be more practical. After you have selected your bridal lingerie, you begin to think of your nightgowns, slips, and step-ins that may be lace-trimmed, a sort of second-best to the bridal set, dainty and beautiful. Last, but by no means least, are those practical but beautiful tailored sets in flat crepe, often monogrammed and bound in another color. These are smart for your daily life, and you will love their sleek-fitting lines. They may be handmade if you can afford it; if not, there are many machine-made garments that will answer your purpose beautifully.

Stay tuned! Next time I’ll share the author’s framework for a lingerie trousseau.

1922: A Love for Beautiful Things

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Here’s another sort of love described: a love for beautiful things! Let’s read what Mabel Hale, in her 1922 book Beautiful Girlhood, had to say in a chapter which focuses on “A Few Faults Discussed”:

Another fault is an inordinate love for pretty things. I say “inordinate,” for there is a proper appreciation for those things that are beautiful that is allowable in every one. But she who has too great a love for these things sets great value upon their possession. Pride and vanity follow close in the wake of a love for personal adornment. Money that should go for more necessary things is given for things beautiful. The girl becomes dissatisfied with the home and surroundings as she finds them, developing a deep dislike for what should be dear to her, all because they do not meet her ideal of beauty.

Such a girl needs to learn to look well to the good that is about her. Where love is, real beauty can be found. There is nothing more beautiful than a happy, satisfied heart. If your love for pretty things so fills your heart that you can not see the good that loving hands and hearts would bring to you, then you need to give serious attention to that which is obstructing your vision.

1897: What Love Is

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

“Love is the essence of every existing thing: the root of life! the recompense for death,” so says author Ella Wheeler Wilcox in her 1897 book titled Men, Women and Emotions. In this week before Valentine’s Day, it seems appropriate to share some quotes about love. Here’s the first, with more to come as we get closer to the 14th. Wilcox continues:

It is the all creative spark, the vital force of the universe. There is power to achieve in the mere utterance of the word ~ Love… Love is the natural element of all things. The illimitable oceans of space are composed of the waters of Love. Whoever loves most widely and warmly is most in harmony with the universe. Love is the key to success. To love your work is to excel in it. To love observingly and nobly any worthy object or aim is to eventually obtain and attain it….

To love is to know happiness but not contentment, rapture but not peace, exhilaration but not satisfaction; for contentment means inertia, peace means stagnation, and satisfaction means satiety, and these three cannot exist where Love is. Love and action are co-existent, and there is no repose where Love is, but there is rest even in its restlessness, ecstasy in its misery, hope in its fear, joy in its sorry, and sweet in its bitter.

1923: Snow Man

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

I live near Washington, D.C., where we are preparing for Snowpocalypse II: The Revenge!!, so I thought I would dig up some snow activities for those of us who may be spending a lot of time at home, bored, this weekend. I have a number of game and recreation books for kids, and found this fun one in a book called Four Hundred Games for School, Home, and Playground, which was written in 1923 by Ethel F. Acker.

Oh, and just because this is written for children, doesn’t mean you grownups can’t play too!

Snow Man

This game affords an opportunity for legitimate snowball throwing. Any number of children may play. Two goals some distance apart are chosen. The two opposite boundaries of the playground may furnish these goals. One child is chosen to be the snow man. With a good supply of snowballs, he stations himself at a point halfway between the goals. All the other children are stationed at one of the goals. Then the snow man calls out, “Who’s afraid of a snow man?” If the children hesitate at all about running, he calls out again, “Oh, you’re afraid of the snow man! You’re afraid!” At that all must run to the opposite goal and the snow man proceeds to hit as many as he can before they reach the goal. Any who are hit must take a place beside the snow man and make balls. Those reaching goal safely without being hit, wait there until again addressed by the snow man; then they run again to the opposite goal, and again the snow man snowballs them. The last child to be hit between goals becomes the snow man for the next game. No one hit on goal is counted out, but no one may stay on goal after the snow man calls the last sentence. As will readily be seen, this game requires a wide as well as a rather long running space.