Who is Miss Abigail?

Abigail Grotke
Silver Spring, MD
email: missabigail at missabigail dot com
twitter: @DearMissAbigail

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About

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!

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Archive for November, 2010

The Hullabaloo Discothèque Dance Book: Table Talk

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

The Hullabaloo TV series, which was on air before I was born, published a handy book in 1966 titled the Hullabaloo Discothèque Dance Book. The book’s introduction leads its readers into the exciting world of this newfangled, European craze that had recently hit the USA: Discothèque Dances. Described as “the term to describe all the places, chic and otherwise, where you can dance to recorded music.” The book is filled with instructions and photos to help guide the reader learn such popular dances such as “The Frug,” “The Hitchhiker,” “The Swim,” “The Monkey,” “The Boston Monkey,” The Slop,” The Buzzard,” and more.

I thought you might be a little tired from all that pie and turkey eating this week, and not up to too many crazy antics this weekend (like learning the “The Jerk,” so I bring you one that you can do while sitting around the table or on the couch. “Table Talk” is a bit complicated, but I think you’ll pick it up quickly. Enjoy! (Sorry I cut off the 13 & 14 numbers when scanning!)

Table Talk p1Table Talk p2Table Talk p3Table Talk p4Table Talk p5

Thanksgiving Parties

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

I spend every other Thanksgiving with family on Sanibel Island in Florida. It’s always a bit odd to eat turkey and mashed potatoes at picnic tables alongside the beach, but we make it work. We have our own games and traditions, including an ornament decorating contest using natural items from the beaches (I am SO winning this year! Take that, Johns Family!). Last time we did a tag-team sort of race (which I lost for our team, quite miserably).

Continuing with this theme of advice for a holidays, I thought I would find some Thanksgiving party ideas that might help you start your own traditions. Here’s a few from the 1928 edition of How to Entertain at Home. These are sure to be crowd-pleasers!

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Rollicking games and stunts that “have a big laugh in them” are indispensable to a party where young people are present. Some good ones are described here.

Sports with doughnuts are highly seasonable at this feast of New England origin. A good one is a race in which players kneel on one knee with hands clasped behind their backs and pursue with the teeth wobbly doughnuts suspended on strings. The player first to devour his cake (without touching it with his hands) wins the race.

“Thanksgiving Dinner” is a nonsense game or stunt which can be enjoyed after the feast on the great day, or after a Thanksgiving supper at the church, if weighing scales are on hand. Each person is asked to step on the scales and “see how heavy a dinner he has eaten.” The mistress of ceremonies singles out some vivacious persons of both sexes, weighing a little lighter or heavier than the usual run. These are pronounced to have eaten too much or too little, according to their appearance and weight, and are sentenced to perform stunts for the amusement of the company.

Very jolly and yet very easy to prepare is a Thanksgiving Contest. Give each player a carrot or turnip (all vegetables to be in the same class, however) and ask him to “carve the turkey.” The entertainer can furnish knives but should anyone have a favorite penknife he is allowed to use it. The idea of the contest is to carve the vegetable provided, into little replicas of the November bird. The turkey can be presented either as living or on the platter. The best sculpture wins the prize.

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Casserole Queens interview

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

An interview I did recently for the nice folks over at the Casserole Queens blog appeared today. Mmmm. . . casserole. . .  the perfect fall meal. . . is it time for dinner yet?

Looking for more etiquette tips or other advice?  Browse my Advice tag cloud.

Keeping Fit to Fight

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Keeping Fit to FightIn honor of Veteran’s Day, I perused advice books in the collection geared towards military families and spouses, such as You…your children…and War and What Every Army Wife Should Know. But instead of giving you some advice about marrying before or after the young man goes to war, or some tips for Army wives in holding down the fort while her soldier is sent away, I couldn’t help but share something written specifically for the soldier. It’s from a 1918 pamphlet called Keeping Fit to Fight, which was “authorized and distributed by The War Department Commission on Training Camp Activities” and “prepared by the American Social Hygiene Association… at the request of and approval by the Surgeon General of the Army.” On first glance it appears to be a nice little health or fitness booklet. It starts off innocently enough, but soon cuts right to the chase on what the REAL message is!

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This is a man-to-man talk, straight from the shoulder without gloves. It calls a spade a spade without camouflage. Read it because you are a soldier of the United States. Read it because you are loyal to the flag and because you want the respect and love of your comrades and those you have left at home.

HEALTH WILL DO MUCH TO WIN THE WAR

Next to military obedience there is nothing so important in a soldier’s life as health, and if he practices military obedience, as every true soldier must, he will surely have good health.

Your health is even more important than ammunition. Without health, ammunition is worthless.

Your health is even more important than guns. Without health, guns cannot be effectively manned.

Your health is even more important than bravery. Bravery in bed does not win battles.

Your health is even more important than efficient officers. Without healthy soldiers, the greatest officer is helpless.

Disease used to kill more soldiers than bullets, but such diseases as smallpox, yellow fever and typhoid have been practically wiped out. Today the greatest menace to the vitality and fighting vigor of any army is venereal diseases (clap and syphilis). The escape from this danger is up to the patriotism and good sense of soldiers like yourself.

Will-power is the first preventative when temptation comes. If you and your comrades use the “I’ll-be-damned-if-I-do” will-power against sexual desire, venereal diseases in the army will be conquered and there will be much less to fear from the enemy.

Will-power and courage go together. A venereal disease contracted after deliberate exposure through intercourse with a prostitute, is as much of a disgrace as showing the white feather.

A soldier in the hospital with venereal disease is a slacker.

He keeps equipment idle.

He keeps a uniform out of service.

He leaves a break in the line.

He must have the attendance needed by men disabled in the honorable discharge of duty.

His medicine and care cost money that could be otherwise used to win the war.

He has lost the self-respect which is the backbone of every true soldier.

If you go with a prostitute, you endanger your country because you risk your health, and perhaps your life. You lessen the man-power of your company and throw extra burdens on your comrades. You are a moral shirker.

WOMEN WHO SOLICIT SOLDIERS FOR IMMORAL PURPOSES ARE USUALLY DISEASE SPREADERS AND FRIENDS OF THE ENEMY.

No matter how thirsty or hungry you were, you wouldn’t eat or drink anything that you knew in advance would weaken your vitality, poison your blood, cripple your limbs, rot your flesh, blind you and destroy your brain. They why take the same chance with a prostitute?

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There’s much much more, written to scare the boots off of any soldier, with graphic details about what gonorrhea and syphilis does to a man (and to his wife, if he passes along the disease to her). And a bonus quote from President Woodrow Wilson on the back cover! “Let it be your pride, therefore, to show all men everywhere not only what good soldiers you are, but also what good men you are, keeping yourselves fit and straight in everything, and pure and clean through and through.”

CHARM – C = HARM

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

“Fidgeters begin at any early age to drive the people around them crazy,” reads advice from Secrets of Charm, which was written in 1954 by John Robert Powers and Mary Sue Miller. Let’s read on: “As children, they seem to wiggle everything, including their ears. A grown woman usually confines herself to twisting a handkerchief or fussing with hair and clothing. No model of charm she! She’s finished off with a simple equation:

Charm - c = harm

“There is only one way to break to fidget habit: stop it! Whenever you begin to move your hands, ask yourself, ‘Is this gesture necessary?’ Within a week, you will exile useless gesticulation and inane toying with objects.”

I think this proves that my books do contain advice on just about any topic you can think of!