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 June, 2011

Causes of Divorce (1950)

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

what every woman should know about financeIt turns out that business advice isn’t terrible amusing, at least not enough to share on the blog. On Thursday, Joyce Dewitt, who is now starring in Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage (the play), rang the NASDAQ closing bell. Finances and the stock exchange not being one of my normal interests, I thought I’d look up some advice to mark the occasion. I took a look at such books as Pots, Pans and Millions (“a study of woman’s right to be in business”), and What Every Woman Should Know About Finance, but to be honest, it was all a bit dry. Sorry, stock exchange, I know I should be interested, but, well, I’m just not that in to you. Can we just be friends?

My husband joined me in the office to hunt for some appropriate advice with me. Flipping through Personal Adjustment, Marriage and Family Living, which had a lot of advice for married couples about managing their finances, my husband started laughing. So upon his request (and no worries, we are very happily married), I bring you possibly the best pie chart ever, not for the content obviously (there’s nothing funny about cruelty and neglect!), but the graphics. I do wish drunkenness would have been illustrated. And I’m so glad “not balancing her checkbook” or “having too much clutter” aren’t on the chart.

Securing Divorces

This was on a section titled “Causes of Divorce.” Here’s another informative table from the same section:

rank order of marital grievances

What’s on my bookshelf?

Monday, June 20th, 2011

I cleaned up my office this weekend, so that means things have been straightened enough to take some not-so-embarrasing photos of the bookshelves. I like to do this every so often to remind myself of how I organized things at any given time, and how the collection has grown. The current shelves are a bit overflowing and double-stacked but our house is small, and marriage is all about compromise, so I’ve tried to be good and not take over the entire house. So, this is the best I can do, though some books not picture are indeed in the living room.

Plus I’m trying out a new WordPress plugin to managing image galleries. It’s not quite working the way I meant, so I’ll keep looking for another option. In the meantime, here’s a peek at the shelves!

[catablog category=bookshelf]

What Dr. Spock Didn’t Tell Us (1958)

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Judas' RecallWith father’s day this weekend, it seems appropriate to share some advice for parents from a publication that came long before the pretty-darned-hilarious Go the F**k to Sleep that has been in the news and floating around Facebook recently. What Dr. Spock Didn’t Tell Us: Or, A Survival Kit for Parents, was written in 1958 by B. M. Atkinson, Jr. and illustrated by Whitney Darrow, Jr. The book is described as “an encyclopedic guide to hitherto uncatalogued afflictions, aberrations, exotic diseases of the American child,”  describing such allusive things as “Butt’s Disease,” “Goat Mouth,” “Serpent’s Tooth,” “McGuffey’s Panic,” and “Vigilante’s Dilemma.” The author learned about such things after his daughter was born. He asked an experienced neighbor (with 5 children) why Dr. Spock hadn’t written about these in his baby book. The neighbor replied “Don’t be silly! If those experts told everything about children, three wouldn’t be any more children, and with out any more children there wouldn’t be any more books about children.” So 15 years and 4 children later, the author put pen to paper to expose the truth. Here’s a sampling:

"PAUPER’S POUT. A recurring swelling and protrusion of the lower lip caused by delusions of extreme poverty in which any child insists that she received less allowance than any other child in town. Considered incurable. Always carried over into marriage.

JUDAS’ RECALL. An excruciating malfunction of the memory in which a four-year-old boy will cut loose with an oath that would do credit to a 104-year-old sailor and then, when taken under attack by his mother, will recall that he learned the word from his father, the father knowing damn well he learned it from the milkman. Occurs usually in the presence of guests, one a church worker.

SPAGHETTI LEG. Phenomenon resulting from attempts to put boots on a child, occurring as the parent orders the child to stiffen leg and push. Though the child ordinarily may have the bone structure of a Percheron and calcium deposits enough in each joint to be worth mining, this command to stiffen the leg causes a dissolving of all bones, joints and major muscles in said leg and reduces it to a state of limpness found only in overcooked spaghetti. A mother attempting to force the leg into a boot once it has achieved this jellied state might be more gainfully employed trying to thread a needle with an oyster.

UNIVAC’S QUIRK. An acute selectivity of the memory in which a child is unable to remember a parental command for five minutes but can remember a parental promise for ten years. The command may be leveled at the child in anything from a low roar to a raging bellow: “Quit jumping on that bed!” Five minutes later all will be forgotten and the boy and the bed will again sound like a kangaroo and a trampoline. The parental promise, however, may be made in anything from an unconscious grunt to an absent-minded grumble: “Yeah, four or five years from now Daddy’ll take you camping.” Four years later ~ to the day ~ the child will show up with a frying pan and a bed roll, usually snarling, “You promised!”

VESUVIAN BLADDER. A spectacular urethral expulsion of bodily liquids, resulting from sudden pressure of the bladder. Occurs exclusively among boy babies, usually from one to six months of age, and most often at bathtime when the child is without clothing and lying flat on his back. The expulsion takes the form of an arching stream and may attain a height of six to eight feet. Such heights, however, are rarely achieved, the stream generally arching only a few feet before striking the hovering parent between the eyes or, should the head be turned, in the ear. A new father, thus anointed for the first time, will usually back over a table or out the nearest window. His amazement, however, immediately gives way to parental pride, and for weeks the father will speak of the boy’s feat in terms usually reserved for men who put satellites in orbit."

Happy Fathers Day, all!

Miss Abigail meets Miss Abigail – Sunday June 5

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Just a reminder,

I’ll be doing a “talk back” after the Sunday, June 5th 3pm show (that’s tomorrow!) of Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage. I’ll be speaking about my book collection, the website, and the book that inspired the show.

Discount tickets for Miss Abigail fans are available here.

Hope to see you there!


Recent Acquisition: The Answer Book on Naval Social Customs (1956)

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Naval Social Customs Yesterday a package arrived at the door: a book titled The Answer Book on Naval Social Customs, sent by the mother of a friend who wrote a week or so ago asking if I’d like it for the collection. She said: “It is a first edition, Jan 1956, Military Service Publishing Company.  What a kick!  These were the norms in place when I was dating young Naval officers in San Diego in the late 50’s and early 60’s.  I found it in a Dollar a Bag sale at the library in Bandon, OR.” My kind of book! Of course I said I’d take it. This will go quite nicely with What Every Army Wife Should Know.

In case you need any tips for what to do on a naval ship, here are some excerpts from a section titles “Going Aboard Ship”:

"One of the privileges a Navy wife enjoys is that of visiting her husband aboard ship. She should remember that she is a guest and a civilian, that she is a visitor where work and ship’s routine are being carried out, and that she is not at a social club. The ship is home to the officers on board. Therefore she should be careful not to wear out her welcome.

When may you expect to be invited aboard ship?

Usually when your husband has the duty and will have free time to spend with you. This will generally be for the evening meal, followed frequently by attendance at the ship’s movie. You and your husband may be invited aboard other ships by his fellow officers.

What do you wear when going aboard ship?

If you are a dinner guest or go aboard for a visit, wear a simple afternoon dress or suit and gloves. Wear a hat if suitable with your costume. Extremely high heels or wedge shoes are not advisable as they make getting in and out of boats, climbing gangways, and walking on board ship difficult. Take a wrap if you expect to attend the movie. Panties are a must. Skirts should be neither too tight nor too full. Carry a purse with an arm strap or handle so that your hands will be free when you go up and down the ladders. It is not advisable to carry packages as they will interfere with boarding a ship.

Miscellaneous information on conduct aboard a ship.

You should not go aboard a ship without an invitation.

You should not wander about a ship unescorted.

It is against regulations to serve intoxicants aboard ship.

Do not take a camera aboard ship.

Do not take a pet aboard ship.

An officer’s wife or guest should not ask any of the ship’s personnel to perform a service for her. They are on assigned duty and are not there for her convenience. A wife should remember that she is not in the Navy."