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!

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Sears Discovery Charm School: Introduction to the 1972 edition

Many moons ago, I published a query from a visitor to the site about the Sears Discovery Charm school. Little did I know, that this would be one of my most popular posts on the site! Seems that many of you charming, lovely, Googlers out there have fond memories of the course (which ran from 1963 to sometime in the 1980s, all over the country). I never attended myself, but did partake (courtesy of my Grandmother Bailey) in a charm school on summer in junior high. I am still traumatized by the experience, as is evidenced in the hundreds of beauty and charm books sitting behind me as I write this post. But I digress…

One commenter posted this history, which she obtained from the Sears Archives:

(1963) The success of a charm school for girls 9 to 19 years of age
started in the El Monte, CA. store and has spread to 16 stores in the
Los Angeles Retail Group.

(1965) Since August of 1965, thousands of young girls, mostly in their
teens, have been trooping into Sears stores signing up for 10-session
courses in Sears new charm school. Elizabeth Reed was the coordinator.

(1966) Sears School for Young Charmers had courses in 250 Sears retail
stores across the nation and an estimate of 100,000 graduates.

Many of you still have the three-ring binder in your possession, others are crushed that your parents threw it away and are desperate for a copy. After that post went up, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the 1972 edition of the binder, D.C. version. The instructor was Mrs. Sherl Conaughton, whose resume included “Registered Nurse, Philadelphia, Pa.; Stewardess, American Airlines; and Model (New York, Florida and California),” among other things. She had 9 years total teaching experience at various modeling and beauty schools.

The binder was found by local director/producer Jeff Krulik in the apartment of a deceased neighbor (he suspects the neighbor’s daughter took the class). In 2009, Jeff tracked me down and handed it over to the Miss Abigail archives for safekeeping. I’ve been meaning to share more of this with you all for ages, but it’s been hard to know where to start! It’s quite a thick binder.

The new year has inspired me, however. I hereby resolve to bring you more Sears Charm School. I’ll start with the very first page. It gives you an idea of what the program is all about.

~~

There’s no one in this world exactly like you. That’s terrific. Because it gives you a particular advantage over everyone else. You’re unique. But it also raises some very important questions. How do you combine the way you look, the way you move, the way you speak, the way you feel so it all comes together and reflects your own personality?

These are some of the questions we’ll be asking, and hopefully be answering during the next few weeks you’ll be spending with us at Sears.

In creating this program, we’ve called upon some top professional people who’ve made it in their own specialized fields. They’ll tell you what you really want to know about things like make-up, skin care, modeling, exercise, fashion, just to name a few. So you’ll be getting the straightest and best possible information to help you toward your own individual personality and your own natural look.

Just what is that natural look we hear so much about? It’s a combination of things that work together to reflect the best possible you. Things you’re comfortable with. Arriving at that kind of look is a matter of learning techniques. Experimenting to find out what works best for you. And then putting it all together. It takes an honest approach and a lot of hard work. But it’s worth it. It pays off.

While you’re finding out about all these things, we’ll also be helping you put together some new ideas about your future. Perhaps you’re thinking about becoming a model. Or maybe you’d like to explore one of the many other interesting careers in fashion. No matter what, we’ll fill you in on what’s involved in the way of preparation, what it takes to get there, and what the life is like when you’ve arrived.

A lot of people talk about doing their own thing. That’s okay, but too often, all that means is just copying someone else’s life style. To really do your own thing, you have to find out what “your thing” is. And that’s what we hope to help you with during the time you’ll be spending with us here at Sears.

We’re glad you’re with us and that we’ll be working together in the discovery of the perfectly natural you.

~~

Help me choose what we should learn about next! Here are our options:

  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • Voice/Speech
  • Modeling
  • Skin Care/Grooming
  • Make-up
  • Fashion
  • Manners

There’s also a special bonus pamphlet that was tucked into my binder: Sears’ “Selecting Teen Fashions” (1971) that might be of interest.

Until Next Time,

Most Fondly,

Your Instructor,

&c., &c.

Miss Abigail

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11 Responses to “Sears Discovery Charm School: Introduction to the 1972 edition”

  1. Lynette Watts says:

    How about exercise – this will be interesting. Love the “trip down memory lane” even though I was not ever subjected to charm school – maybe I should have been 🙂

  2. Dorothy says:

    I vote for Voice/Speech and Manners, but I’m interested in everything! Thank you for doing this project. It’s wonderful that you’re posting these for posterity.

  3. Gaynell Gallagher says:

    I went to Sears Charm School, too. I don’t remember a lot about the experience, but I do remember learning to do the “model turn” and walking with a book on my head. Not sure why my mother sent me to the school — she didn’t send my sister. That probably says it all. Anyway, I would love to take this walk down memory lance and see as much of the original binder as I can. Thanks for doing this for all the “graduates!” GG

  4. Kimberly Williams says:

    I have a question….being that this book is very rare. Do you think I can still find one? I had one when I was a young lady, we moved, and I think my parents accidently threw it away. I would love to have this book again. Brings back so many memories. The book was given to me, from my mother’s patient, when my mother was doing home health care back in the 80’s. I would sit for hours reading this book. On how to be the most daring young woman. Also, I would like to have it, because I plan on opening a charm school for young ladies in my area, so please…any information would be helpful.
    Thanks,
    Kimberly Williams

  5. admin says:

    Hi Kimberly, So far no one seems to have extra copies around to sell or share. I’ll continue to scan in parts of mine. Apparently they were customized for the local store and not all the same, from what I can gather.

  6. Maggie Atwood says:

    I went to Sears Charm School (Oakbrook, IL) in 1965 or 1966. I loaned my binder to a friend, and when we moved out of state in 1967, I forgot all about it and never got it back. I would love to have a copy. Charm School taught me a lot, and I think all young girls in this day & age should attend.

  7. Adrienne Creely says:

    Thank you for sharing! This is great, how often will you publish excerpts or will you copy for purchase. I would love to read it and see the diferences/similarities of the young ladies of yesteryear to the modern lady.

  8. Jeanni says:

    Is there a way we can get copies of the sear charm notebook? Please advise….

  9. Martita Arnold Orange says:

    This is a special hello to all the young girls that had the pleasure of attending Sears Charm School. I attended the Beginner and the Advanced class. I also had the privilege of being crowned Miss Teenage Sears of 1970. Iwas the first and only African American to have been crowned. I was selected as one of 34 girls selected from approximately 200 girls selected from the preliminary contest. I was representing the Sears State Street Store. The final contest was held at Prudential Building. I was sixteen at the time. I was crowned Miss Teenage Sears. Tim Conway from the Tim Conway Show was one of the judges, and I got to model on his show. I held the title for a year but was unable to crown the incoming queen. My picture appeared in the little book that advertised the charm school. I was stripped of my title for the final contest and they gave the title to the second runner-up. However, being able to have participated and winning the title of Miss Teenage Sears hasnot been stripped from my memory or my heart. I have only positve things to say. Due to my interest in modeling I was able to share my experience with my daugther who went on and received a modeling contract with the coveted Elite Modeling Agency. Having read the blog brought back many good memories. It would be awesome to go down memory lane with other girls that attended the charm classes.

  10. admin says:

    How, wonderful Martita! If Sears only knew there such was demand for a reunion party! Thanks for sharing your story with us.