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 October, 2010

Hallowe’en Suggestions

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Hi kids! It’s Halloween time again (or Hallowe’en, if you celebrated this back in 1905). I consulted with Mrs. Herbert B. Linscott’s Bright Ideas for Entertaining to find some fun party tips for you this year. First, some decorating ideas:


Have mirrors everywhere: big mirrors, medium-sized mirrors, and little, wee mirrors, all reflecting and multiplying countless candles that burn in candlesticks of every description (most novel are those made from long-necked gourds and tiny squashes).

Across the top and down the sides of each doorway hang festoons of yellow and white corn and turn the husks back to show the firm, glistening kernels. Each window can be garlanded in like manner as well as the tops of mantels and picture frames. Here and there, in the most unexpected corners, can be placed Jack-o’-lanterns, smiling or gnashing their teeth, amid great shocks of corn. The great hall and stairway can be draped with fish-nets through the meshes or which are thrust many ears of corn. A stately Jack must point the guests up the stairs where two other individuals will usher them to the dressing-rooms.


And now, for some games!


In [a] doorway hang a big pear-shaped pumpkin, on whose shining surfaces all the letters of the alphabet have been burned with a hot poker. Keep this rapidly twirling while the guests, in turn, try to stab some letter with long meat-skewers. The  letter that is hit will establish beyond question the initial letter of one’s fate.

Place in a tub of water red, yellow and green apples. Provide each guest with a toy bow and arrow. The young man or maiden who succeeds in firing an arrow into a red apple will be assured of good health; plenty of money is in store for shooting arrows into yellow ones; and good luck is in store for those hitting the green ones.

Blindfold each girl present and, presenting her with a wand, lead her to a table on which have been placed flags of the different men’s colleges. The flag her wand happens to touch will indicate the college of her future husband.


And finally, the author rounds out the party plan with some food suggestions: “Browning nuts, popping corn, roasting apples, and toasting marshmallows will add a great deal of pleasure to the evening.”  Yum!

For more Halloween tips, visit this earlier post.

Happy Halloween!

Opening, Part II: Miss Abigail and Friends Hit the Big Apple

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Not only was I considered tried-and-true band geek in high school, I was a thespian. While most of my roles were as stage manager or in the chorus, I did get to star in Our Town. While I didn’t have the passion (or rather, skill) that others in drama did at Charlotte High School, I’ve always been a fan of the theater. So when I was contacted just over a year ago by producer Ken Davenport about optioning the theatrical rights to my book, Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, how could I say no? I enthusiastically signed up for the project. Ken and his co-writer Sarah Saltzberg visited my house one Saturday afternoon in December, to talk advice and to pour through the books that inspired this website and my book. If you’d like to see some of the original quotes from the book that were also used in the play, visit this link. After some months of script writing and testing in New York, the show opened in June in Tampa to try it out on stage. And by the end of the summer, New York dates were announced. Hence my scrambling to get a new version of this site up this summer, and the book republished!

So that is how, as the “the real” Miss Abigail, I came to witness first-hand all the fun and excitement of an Off-Broadway premiere of a play that was inspired by my book, Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage last weekend. I got to share the wonderful weekend with many, many friends and family (12 of us attended Saturday’s matinee) and over 30 joined me for the opening night performance, including a number of co-workers from the Library of Congress. (A special shout-out to Ken’s staff Melissa and Jody for their help getting everyone booked and putting up with my endless questions as we prepared to travel to the Big Apple.)

central park

Liz, Abbie and Laura in Central Park

I arrived Friday by BoltBus with some friends from D.C. We dropped our things in my friend Laura’s family’s lovely apartment and hit the town. The weekend was not just to see the play – we enjoyed the grocery stores and cafes in the Upper West Side neighborhood we were in, toured a neighborhood in Brooklyn where another friend had spent the first year of her life, and hunted for an elusive apricot turkish delight from later in her childhood (not quite, but found something close). The weather was great and we visited Central Park (a few times), and the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History.

But back to the play…

Niece Ally spots a sign at the train station in Connecticut

Saturday’s matinee was my first introduction to the theater and location – a mere half a block from Times Square. Advertising for the show was everywhere – we spotted a few brave giant heart-shaped sign wearers handing out flyers, and ads in parking garages – even one in a train station in Connecticut (reports my family, who came by train from that direction).

Sign Carrier

Spotted in Times Square - a lady with a giant heart! Awww!

Our seats were in the front row, and I won’t spoil the show but I will tell you my family got up close and personal with the stage version of Miss Abigail (Eve Plumb) and her hunky side-kick Paco (Manuel Herrera). A good time was had by all.

Sunday, we had a lovely brunch and talked Muppets and Sesame Street with my friend’s dad Al who used be a lawyer for the Jim Henson Foundation. He’s got a muppet of himself to prove it!

Al and his muppet

Al and his muppet lookalike

Sunday night, a bunch of us gathered a nearby pizza joint before heading over to the theater.

pre party

Pre-Show Partying

We met up with the rest of the gang, and took our seats and eagerly awaited the performance. I felt a bit nervous (not sure why – I didn’t write the play and I wasn’t on stage!) but I think it was just excitement. I get to dance a little with Paco (fun!) and then the theme music was cued… and the show starts. Some of us were again in the front row (click on “October 24, 2010 – 7:30 pm” for evidence – I’m sandwiched between my husband Denis and my Dad Dave, who is sitting next to Michelle and Neil).

After the play was over, and the actors left the stage, there was a sudden rush and a ton of photographers started snapping someone’s photo – none other than Dr. Ruth!! I had seen her earlier but it didn’t click that it was really her. Then I look over and see that Barry Williams is there, getting his photo with Dr. Ruth. Somehow I end up on stage and I’m chatting with Barry about Dancing with the Stars and I then we are told “look at me, now look at me” by all of these photographers. Eve and Manuel come out from backstage, as do Ken and Sarah. All I could think of was how strange this all was and how much total wacky fun it was, and “shoot, I wish I had worn makeup” (naw, not really) and how happy I was that I got a new outfit, and thank goodness there is photographic evidence because they are never going to believe this back at the office.

Me with Manuel, Eve, and Barry. I said, "that's my friend Liz!" and everyone turned for this photo.

After the photoshoot, I went on to the reception/after party with a smaller group of family and friends. We had a lovely time. I luckily got to meet up again with Laurie Birmingham and Mauricio Perez, who played Miss Abigail and Paco in Tampa. Eve Plumb’s saxophone-playing husband hit it off with my own saxophone-playing husband. I got a photo with Dr. Ruth.

dr ruth and abbie

Dr. Ruth meets Miss Abigail

After a few glasses of wine, my playing-it-cool broke down and I mentioned the Brady Bunch a bit too excitedly to Barry Williams (my only major faux pas of the evening – as far as I know). We joined up with some other friends to top off the evening at a spinning restaurant on Times Square, where we had desserts and called it a night.

On Monday we managed to wander the city a bit more before taking the train home late. I got back to work (aka reality) on Tuesday (library, what’s a library?). And now I am eagerly reading the reviews and hoping people buy the new version of the book and visit this website and enjoy the play!

[Exit stage right]

Miss Abigail and Denis

me and MY hunky sidekick (saying "truuueeee")

The Opening, Part I

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

I need to decompress a bit more (and gather up some friends’ photos) in order to fully share all the fun that was had this Sunday at the Off-Broadway premiere of Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage.  In the meantime, enjoy a few photos (yes, Barry Williams and Dr. Ruth were really there), courtesy of my mom, Linda Salisbury, and check out this A- review of the show in Entertainment Weekly! [update: more here!]

Eve Plumb, Manuel Herrera, and Miss Abigail Grotke

Eve Plumb (Miss Abigail), Manuel Herrera (Paco), and Abigail Grotke (the real Miss Abigail)

photo shoot

Glenn Ricci (taking the iphoto), Barry Williams, Sarah Saltzberg, Abigail Grotke, Ken Davenport, and Dr. Ruth, on the set!

Dressing Appropriately

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
Geraldine Farrar

Geraldine Farrar, "whose individuality seems always to demand clothes extraordinaire - clothes that express the elegance of the opera"

I thought I’d do a bit more research on what might be appropriate to wear this weekend at the opening of the play inspired by my book, Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, or at any theatrical production, for that matter (as I’m now a season ticket-holder at Arena Stage in D.C.). I consulted with Mary Brooks Picken’s 1918 book titled The Secrets of Distinctive Dress. The author had this to say on dressing appropriately for the theater: “What you should wear to the theater depends largely on the seat you are to occupy. It is perfectly correct to wear the same garments and accessories as are provided for Informal Theater if a theater box is to be occupied; and it is very much better taste to do so if the trip to the theater is not made in a private conveyance.”

Ms. Picken goes on to talk more about formal wear:


Rather than slavishly follow the prevailing mode, you will find that the most beautiful, and decidedly the most practical, evening clothes are those which are designed to suit you, because they can be used for more than one season.

Formal dress should depend on the beauty of fabric and color, rather than on intricate style. Informal evening dress is best when made of inexpensive fabrics, with more regard to design, for such garments are subject to harder usage than the more formal evening gowns, and as they are worn oftener they have shorter life.

If your circumstances are moderate, one evening wrap of conservative design, color, and fabric should serve you at least two years, and for all seasons except summer.

Garments of unlined silk or of knitted or crocheted silk or wool are acceptable for summer.

If you are not accustomed to attending many formal affairs and attend more afternoon than evening functions, you should select an afternoon coat of neutral tone or very dark shade, and a style and fabric equally suitable for afternoon and evening wear.


Is a Man Abnormal if He Likes Art and Dislikes Sports?

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Sex Questions and AnswersI’ve got a husband who likes art and dislikes sports (and he seems to be well-adjusted), so I was a bit intrigued to read this excerpt in a new addition to my collection, the book Sex Questions and Answers: A Guide to Happy Marriage by Fred Brown and Rudolf T. Kempton. I’m not sure what this has to do with sex, though the authors may have felt it was an important issue ~ it’s in the chapter titled “Problems of Sexual Adjustment.”


Every normal man has a bit of woman in him and every woman contains some of the male in her personality. There is, generally speaking, no such thing as an “ideal” combination of masculinity and femininity in one person. In some primitive societies the females are breadwinners while the males do the housework and gossip. In other societies both men and women play dominant roles. Among ourselves it has, until very recently, been the accepted pattern for males to be dominant or “masculine” while females were expected to be “feminine” or passive. The ideal combination of traits, evidently, is whatever is regarded as most desirable in the particular society in which the person lives. Our standard requires that a man be aggressive and “ambitious” in his lifework, that he exhibit an acceptable interest in “male” recreations such as sports, that he look forward to marriage and the rearing of family, and that he seek enjoyment from the companionship of other men. The feminine part of him should enable him to show warmth and affection toward others, an interest in the arts, kindness and consideration. There are many men who would have a feeling for fine paintings, flowers, and the gentler aspects of life if this sensitivity had not been squelched early in life by an insecure father who insisted that these represented “sissy” interests. An excessive interest in sports to the exclusion of other interests may reveal limitations in the personality range and, in excess, a prolonged adolescent identification of manliness with the possession of physical prowess. Everyone tries to select from the environment those aspects of it which suit his intellectual and emotional needs. Some of those selections will be based upon inner weaknesses which require identification with a powerful football team and the need to win, while others will seek more passive and less muscular pursuits. Neither one nor the other is “abnormal” but merely reflects the different ways in which individual differences cause people to take from the environment whatever they need. The best balance of masculine and feminine traits is achieved when the individual is able to mingle with members of his own and the opposite sex without experiencing tension and strain.


Now that I think about it, I suppose tension and strain during sex might be a problem.

Miss Abigail’s Guide (version 2) went to Press!

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Miss Ab new coverThe second edition of Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage has gone to press! I should be getting a proof soon and then copies will be available for sale later this month. It’s a reprint of the first edition (which went out of print earlier this summer).

Many thanks to Nina Tovish for her fun cover design, and to Linda and Jim Salisbury  at Tabby House for their editing and publishing guidance during the last few months! And to GlenHanson.com for use of the show art on the cover.

If you’re interested in ordering copies, please contact me directly ~ it might be a few weeks before they show up in Amazon.

Recent Acquisitions: the LC Book Sale!

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Every year the Library of Congress (where I work) holds a book sale. No, they don’t sell books from the collections ~ staff bring in books to donate and the sale proceeds go to help fund the CFC campaign, so it’s all for a good cause.

I usually come across some good finds at this sale. This year’s take-home loot:

Sex Questions and Answers: A Guide to Happy Marriage (1950)

Your Child’s World: The Specific Approach to Daily Problems (1955)

Conquering Success: Or Life in Earnest (1903)

Getting What We Want: How to Apply Psychoanalysis to Your Own Problems (1921)

Everywoman’s Complete Guide to Homemaking (1936)

Personal Problems of Everyday Life (1941)

How to Entertain at Home (1928)

You… Your Children… and War (1942)

Quite the variety! I plan to poke through them to see if I can find some things to share here (I’ve already found something in the sex book), but if you’ve got any requests for advice from a particular book, let me know.

Recent Write Ups

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

The previews for the off-Broadway show inspired by my book open this week (October 7th). Because of that, I’m starting to see a few more write-ups about the play and my book and site. Here’s a few from today:

Jan Brady Doles Out Retro Dating Advice in Off-Broadway Play (has a nice mention of this site),

and in the New York Post: Ask Jan Brady, with photos of the new cast members – the guy playing Paco has hair in this picture that reminds me a bit of my real-life honey’s hair – but that’s all they have in common!

This reminds me, I need to update my press mentions page. It is woefully out of date, and is on the list of to-dos now that my site has been converted to WordPress.

It’s Fun to Be a [Popular] Girl

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

It's Fun to Be a GirlAlong with the rest of the nation, I’ve been watching and enjoying Glee. And as a card-carrying lifetime member of the band geek club, it’s been bringing up all those lovely memories of the popular kids vs. the geeks “battles” that went on ~ most of you probably had some experience, whatever side you were on.

It’s been on my mind particularly as my 25th high school reunion approaches (I’ll be missing the festivities back in fun-city Punta Gorda, Florida, since its the same weekend of the opening of the play). Here’e some advice from Ruth Vaughn’s It’s Fun to Be a Girl, published in 1961, which alludes to the fact that musicians and artists can be popular too. Goody!


Popularity begins, not with making yourself important, but by becoming concerned and interested in other people. The result will bring happiness to you and others.

A group of girls were talking at a summer camp. One said, “It is so hard to maintain high standards and be popular.” Another girl spoke up, citing an incident where a girl with high ideals was crowned football queen.

“Sure,” the first girl remarked, “but she can play the flute, sing like a bird, and paint pictures. She can do almost anything. Most of us are not that talented!”

To be popular doesn’t require many talents. Everyone possesses at least one talent. The most important thing to do is to cultivate it. You play the piano? Develop it to the greatest popular capacity. You are pretty good with a tennis racket? Become very good. If your outstanding attribute is simply making friends and being a loyal, warm person ~ work at that. Being vastly talented is nice, but it certainly is not a requisite in this business of being popular.

Don’t try to be the best at everything. If Gail gives a reading which is a scream, don’t get up and try to compete with her or try to throw cold water on her praise. Add your part by getting a good seat to watch and applauding with all your heart for her talent. If Cheryl sings with such a radiance and warmth that it fills the entire room, don’t make a spectacle of yourself by trying to sing as well. Face yourself honestly and accept your own limitations. But develop and polish the talents which you possess.

Being the kind of girl who is popular takes self-discipline. The girl who has such a gay, appealing personality was not born that way. She learned to discipline herself pretty sternly because she knows the great rewards it brings.