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 September, 2010

Looking for Glove Etiquette or Info on the Sears Discovery Charm School?

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

With the site redesign, I had to completely redo how my old advice pages were displaying. They are now all blog posts.

Two popular posts from the old site are now in new locations. If you are looking for glove etiquette, it’s here: http://www.missabigail.com/advice/beauty-and-charm/2010/08/glove-etiquette/

And the one on the Sears charm school is here: http://www.missabigail.com/news/2008/01/sears-discovery-charm-school-ring-any-bells/

If you tried to post any comments since April to the charm school, I couldn’t transition them over to the new site unfortunately. Feel free to post again!

The search box works really well, as does the tag cloud into the advice, but if you’re having trouble finding something else you enjoyed from the old version of the site let me know and I can point you in the right direction.

-Miss Abigail

Welcome to the New and Improved MissAbigail.com

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Hello Miss Abigail fans! Welcome to the new and improved version of MissAbigail.com, now hosted on WordPress. It was time to bring the site into the modern era of web publishing, so I’ve spent the last few months updating and refreshing the content you see here. Miss Abigail 2.0 is easier for me to update, and hopefully more fun for you to use!

What’s new, you ask? I’ve imported all of my advice from the previous site and categorized and tagged all of the posts, so you can now search by tag or category to find any advice you are looking for. In addition, I’m making use of my LibraryThing book database to provide better browsing and searching of the books in my collection.Visit my Facebook page and subscribe to the site feed and tweets to keep up to date with what’s going on here.

I hope you enjoy the new site. Drop me a line to let me know what you think, or if you see anything wonky on the site (I’ve got some link cleanup still to do), or just to say hello!

Miss Abigail @ Miss Abigail dot com

Miss Abigail ~ the play ~ heads to NY!

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Exciting news – a new play, which was inspired by my book, Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, is heading to New York in October! Read more about it on the producer’s blog.

Co-written by Ken Davenport and Sarah Saltzberg, the play stars Eve Plumb as Miss Abigail and Manuel Herrera as her hunky side-kick Paco.

For tickets and other information, visit MissAbigailsGuide.com

Summertime Hints

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Founded in 1868 by J. R. Watkins, the Watkins Company, as evidenced in their company history, was a pioneer in natural products to cure, clean, cook with, drink, and kill insects with.

Elaine Allen, Director of Home Economics at the company, put together the 1941 book Watkins Household Hints which I perused this morning to find some random handy hints to help make the last month of your summer even better!

Vacation Hints
Know the source of your drinking water and milk. If in doubt of its purity, boil the water. Never drink water from streams or wells. For a day’s outing, carry milk and water in a thermos bottle. When touring in Mexico and South America, all drinking water should be boiled or add chlorazine tablets to purify the water.

Exhale through the nose while under water and inhale through the mouth while swimming on the surface. This will maintain a positive air pressure in the nasal cavities, protecting the nose and ears from infection. Ear plugs or soft wool may be used in the ear.

Malaria and yellow fever are carried by certain kinds of mosquitoes. Use Watkins Fly Spray or Watkins Fly and Moth Spray freely when sitting on an unscreened porch, at picnics and outdoor gatherings. Kill young mosquitoes or wrigglers in pools, rain barrels, or where water collects, with Watkins Fly Spray. Pour a little of the liquid on the surface. Use household ammonia for mosquito bites and dust with Watkins Talcum.

Heat – Summer
Observe healthful living habits – sufficient sleep, daily baths, a well-selected and moderate diet, plenty of water, regular and thorough elimination. Eat less food in extremely hot weather. Eat crisp salads, green vegetables and fruit – leave the table a little hungry. Avoid hot drinks and alcoholic beverages, because they generate heat and increase discomfort. Iced tea is excellent. Exercise heats the body and should be taken in moderation, with frequent rest periods. Use a liberal amount of salt with food, unless your doctor has advised otherwise. Do not allow your thoughts to dwell on the heat, be calm, and keep out of the sun. A cloth wrung out of cold water and lightly covered with a piece of think cheesecloth will, if placed on the forehead, back of neck and over each wrist, reduce the temperature and induce sleep. Keep cloth cold, or use an ice bag.

Blueberry Stain
1. Use Watkins Spot Remover. Follow directions.
2. Sponge stain with lukewarm water. If stain remains, use a few drops of oxalic acid.
3. Rinse thoroughly.

Marshmallows and Wieners – To Roast
A wire corn popper is excellent for roasting wieners or marshmallows over an open fire. You can roast more at a time and the meat juice is not lost because of punctured skin.

How to Display the Flag

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

unfurl it, then hoist it quicklyI’ve seen American flags hanging from bridges overhanging the highways. I’ve seen them attached to cars and motorcycles, whipping in the wind as the vehicles pass by. I’ve seen paper flags taped to windows and doors. I’ve never seen so many flags. But do we really remember how to treat them correctly? Here are a few flag etiquette tips from Service Etiquette, written by Oretha Swartz. (more…)

Twelve Steps to Success in Public Speaking

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

enthusiasm is catchingI’ve been busy preparing for a talk I gave last week at the American Studies Association conference in Detroit. I was on a panel that discussed secondhand shops and thrift stores, and told all about purchasing books for this site.

Since I spend more time behind the safety of the keyboard, I was a bit nervous about speaking in public. Ruth Tolman’s Charm and Poise for Getting Ahead saved me, thankfully, and the talk went off without a hitch. And I didn’t even get a chance to size up the audience first!

Speech Now, or Forever Hold Your Peace

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

inspires respect and confidenceQ Dear Miss Abigail:

My boss has asked me to give a presentation at a conference, but I’m so nervous and don’t think anyone will listen to what I have to say. Do you have tips that will help me get through this?


A Dear Olivia:

How fitting this question is, as I sit in my home in Washington, D.C., listening to the helicopters fly by as they circle the Capitol building a few blocks away, where our President is at this moment giving that state of the union address thingie. I’m sure he doesn’t need any advice about giving a speech, but hopefully this will help calm your fears. It’s from a little book titled The First Book of How to Give a Speech (1963) by David Guy Powers.

1963: Good Posture Gives Poise

What is the first thing you notice about a person? Before he begins to speak you are apt to notice his appearance. If he stands tall, carries himself with dignity, and appears at ease, he usually inspires respect and confidence. The actor who wishes to impersonate a leader carries himself that way. He makes the audience realize the character even before he speaks his lines. If you wish to be a good speaker you must learn to convey meaning with posture as well as with words. Every good actor you see on television knows the value of looking the part.

Train yourself to express your meaning by effective gestures. Remember, ‘Actions speak louder than words.’ Your actions and your words should give one message to the audience. . . . A company advertising shoe polish once used this slogan, ‘Look at your shoes! Others do.’ A similar rule applies to your speech. ‘Look at your posture. Others do.’ Therefore, you should study to make your appearance say the same thing as your words.

Source: Powers, David Guy. The First Book of How to Make a Speech. New York: Frankin Watts, 1963.
~ pp. 24-25 ~

Sing, Sing a Song

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

gather an audienceQ Dear Miss Abigail:

How do I become a singer? How do I get a good record company and get my tape to the company? I have a good voice, but I can’t think of songs and my tape recorder doesn’t work well.


A Dear Chip:

Wow. Chip, honey, you’ve got quite a journey ahead of you if you’re going to make it big. To help you out here, I’ve turned to actor Debbie Reynolds, who wrote her debut advice book for teens If I Knew Then in 1962 with a little help from author Bob Thomas. Perhaps you should ask your parents for a new tape recorder (perhaps a digital one) for Christmas, and then start booking those shows.

1962: How Do You Get Started in Show Business?

You listen and you learn and you try.

You never know how good you are until you try. Your own town may seem like an entertainment wasteland, but you might be surprised at the opportunities it affords.

You might start with neighborhood shows, as I did. You can appear at school plays, charity bazaars, veterans’ hospitals, old folks’ homes, orphanages, fires ~ anywhere you can gather an audience. There are small night clubs and summer theaters and pageants and radio shows.

Listen to the audience or the lack of it, to the rapt silence of a darkened hall or a restless crowd. Those are the sounds that will tell you whether to quit or keep going. Listen to your teachers and parents, too. They can inspire you. They may also do you the service of telling you if you lack the gift of talent.

Develop your skills ~ all kinds. A person who can sing and dance as well as handle acting roles has a better chance of finding jobs. Learn instruments, too, especially the piano.

Source: Reynolds, Debbie. If I Knew Then. New York: Bernard Geis Associates, 1962.
~ p. 125 ~

Is Andy Interested In Me? or, Remembering Names

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

oh, yes, you can, if you want toQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Is Andy interested in me?


A Dear Evelyn:

I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify something for you and quite a few others who have recently asked me such questions as “Will I marry John Rachal?” and “Will I go out with Jonathan Bonin?” and “Am I wasting my time with the relationship I have at the moment?” Well, here it is ~ the one, the only, the OFFICIAL STATEMENT:

Miss Abigail’s Time Warp Advice is in no way whatsoever connected to the Psychic Hotline.

Whew. Now that we are all clear on that, you will understand why I cannot answer your question. So instead, I will use this space to share some totally irrelevant advice regarding the fine art of remembering names. I wonder, Emily, are you also troubled with this problem?

1961: Remembering Names

There is one thing that makes a hit with everybody. That is, remembering names. You may have heard people bragging ~ though they should have been apologizing for it instead of bragging about it ~ ‘I always remember faces, but I can’t seem to remember names.’

Oh, yes, you can, if you want to, and are willing to try hard enough. The late president Franklin D. Roosevelt was an outstanding example of someone who could call people by their first names after not having seen them for a long time. Nothing pleases a person quite so much as having his name remembered.

How can you gain this ability to make friends by remembering names? There are certain tricks and ways for developing this, but you can develop ways of your own. If you are determined to do it and willing to make the effort ~ and it does involve considerable effort ~ the battle is half won.

You can start this good habit better at your age than if you wait until later. Nothing will give you a better and bigger boost up the ladder of popularity, and the success that goes with it.

Source: Richardson, Frank Howard. For Young Adults Only: The Doctor Discusses Your Personal Problems. Atlanta, Ga.: Tupper and Love, 1961.
~ pp. 114-15 ~

I Don’t Wanna Grow Up

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

we are useful, happy, well-adjusted individualsQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I am about to enter my eighteenth year. Upon realizing this threshold, it seems I have developed a fear of actually being “a grown woman.” Even at the age of technical womanhood, I doubt that I’ll feel like I’m responsible or mature enough to think of myself as anything but a little girl. Can you help? With hopes of glamourous adulthood,


A Dear Amyliz:

Whoever said you have to grow up by a certain age? At thirty-two, I’m still not convinced I’m mature, or ever want to be. I still watch Sesame Street. I’d rather shop for toys than clothing. I wish we had nap time at work. Is that so wrong?

Maturity comes in different flavors for different people; you just need to find your own way, glamourous or not. And now onto the old advice ~ here are some additional thoughts about growing up from the one and only Pat Boone, from ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty .

1958: Do It Yourself

What does it really mean to ‘grow up?’

Did you ever think it meant a kind of a Cloud Nine existence where you could run your own show in your own way. Well, ’tain’t so! Remember the wisdom offered by a father whose son wanted to know: ‘When will I be old enough to do as I please?’ And the old man replied: ‘I don’t know. Nobody every lived that long.’

That’s about the size of it.

Our physical growth ~ height, hands, feet (especially feet!) ~ is miraculously taken care of whether we cooperate or not. But the growth we have to concern ourselves with is strictly the do-it-yourself kind. To be really grown-up is to arrive at maturity.

I think we have today potentially the brightest, nicest, most advanced teen-agers ever. Such an authority as Heman G. Stark, Director of the State of California Youth Authority, agrees with this. Says Mr. Stark: ‘On the basis of my thirty years’ experience, I’d say . . . the teen-agers of today are stronger, smarter, more self-sufficient, and more constructive than any other generation of teen-agers in history.’

The big question is, is he talking about a group? Or about you? You can ask, ‘Who, us?‘ Or, ‘Who, me?

Your individual growth toward maturity is what you personally are doing to fulfill your all-around potential. The dictionary describes maturity as ‘a state or quality of full development.’

Then a mature person will be the one who has made the most of himself in all departments. A mature teen-ager will be the one who is least distorted by those four teen-age symptoms we mentioned, and can live comfortably and harmoniously with himself and the world. In other words when, at any age, we are useful, happy, well-adjusted individuals, able to give as much as we get ~ we are mature!

Source: Boone, Pat. ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty: Pat talks to Teenagers. Engelwood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1958.
~ pp. 38-39 ~