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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Advice Archive

Coming out of the Woodwork: Should We Follow the Leader?

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

I’ve decided to come out of semi-retirement, which is otherwise known as “I’ve been too lazy to update my website and social media channels” (at least for the time being) because the state of our dear United States of America has been so distressing to me. If you spend any time on Twitter, which I unfortunately do too much of, or reading the news, everyone seems to have not only lost their minds, but lost their manners. Civility has gone the wayside as people scream at each other to get their point across, no matter how that makes our neighbors and friends and fellow humans, no matter their political persuasions.

The only way I could think about fighting off some of the negativity around me was to turn to my classic advice books for inspiration to get us through these difficult times. While the advice is from a “simpler time,” these words can also still have relevance. And since no one wants to read much anymore (are any of you even still with me?), I’ve abandoned my usual style to quote a long passage here in a blog post to find shorter snippets that are more easily shareable on ye olde social media. Cause ya know, all the kids are doing it.

Here’s the first:

MissAbigail_Loeb_Leader_1964v2

So look for these in the future, and I swear, all of the quotes are ACTUALLY TRUE and come from my vast collection of classic advice books. I may edit them down slightly to make them more succinct, but will use ellipses when I do so so it is clear. If you would like to see the full quote contact me, or dig up the original book for some additional fun!

Book Inventory Row 4: Caring for Your Hair and Eyes (and other parts)

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

This entry in the “what’s on my bookshelf” includes more health and fitness books, including some related to caring for your hair and eyes, a few Red Cross guidebooks, and a Christian fitness book. And for some reason the Sears Discovery Charm school binder sits on this shelf. I think it belongs elsewhere, but I went with it and included it here. Enjoy!

Sears Charm School Binder Available!

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

A message to all of the Sears Charm School attendees desperate to find a copy of the binder: Anne wrote to say that her school is doing a fundraiser for their library and auctioning off a Sears Charm School binder on eBay. “This was donated by one of our patrons, and the money raised from selling this book will help keep our library open, so you’re benefiting a charity too.” I asked what year it was, and this is what she had to say: “The back of the book says Copyright 1965, but I can’t be sure if that’s the year it came out.”

I know many of you are interested in this. Let’s raise some money for the library!

Book Inventory Row Three: This Time, Horizontal!

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

A skinny third row down on my first bookcase demands that I stack them horizontally. The books this week are mostly health and some sex-related titles, including a book on stammering, one printed in Norwegian (from our last-summer adventures to BookTown), and a possibly self-published book from 1947, printed in Baltimore and signed by the author, on spine health (which is helpful to me as I combat a bulging disc and associated pain). Check out the Flickr gallery below for the images.

Book Inventory: Shelf 1, Row 2, in which I discover I file badly

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

I’m only on shelf one, row two, and I realize that I have sex books for kids mixed in with physical education textbooks, and other health books. Woops. I guess I should reorganize as I go, but eh, that’s not within scope of the project. 🙂

I also (re)discovered that I have a book from 1782 in the collection, which might be my earliest: Buchan’s Domestic Medicine

Check out the gallery here:

2015 Inventory of Collections: Shelf 1, Row 1: Health

Sunday, March 8th, 2015


Over the years I’ve done a so-so job of tracking which books are in my collection, from a long-ago database on my old Mac, to my website bibliography, and an ultimate move to Librarything.com which has been great and so much easier, but I’ve never managed to get all of my titles loaded.

So for 2015, I’m starting a new book inventory project, and hope to get everything documented so others can see the full extent of the collection and enjoy the covers, some of which are pretty fabulous. The goals and what I’m up to:

1) Ensuring all of my books are listed in my online database over at Library Thing
2) Photographing the bookshelves and book covers (unless the cover is completely blank–for instance hardcovers that have no jacket–in which case I’ll skip those, but you can see the spines in the shelf photos)
3) Uploading the covers to my Flickr account (and hopefully I can get them loaded into LibraryThing as well, though I’m having difficulty at the moment doing that)

I don’t have any interns helping, unfortunately, so this may take me awhile, unless Lulu the dog can help do some data entry… but check back here for updates as I add more shelves and sections this year.

To start off, I’ve finished the first row of my first bookshelf, which you can see in this Flickr album. Things are loosly grouped on the shelves into topics (no LCSH or Dewey Decimal organization here, sorry!), and this first group is from the HEALTH section.

Enjoy!

Sears Discovery Course: Chapter on Manners (1972)

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

There’s been renewed interest lately from readers of this site in the Sears Discovery Charm School courses that were available in the 1960s and 1970s; I’ve written about this before on the site, which is likely leading searchers to find their way to Miss Abigail.

A fan and attendee of the course recently wrote to say she was a graduate of the Sears Discovery Charm School during the early 70s in Racine, WI:  “I was wondering if you could provide the information from the 3 ring binder regarding manners. I really wish I could locate my binder, but so very appreciative that the information is still available!”

So I dug up my binder (from 1972), and scanned in the chapter for it and sent along. Given the number of emails I get on the topic, I thought others would like to see it to – so here you go! Pop on over to my Flickr account to see the whole chapter, or flip thru the images below. Enjoy!

 

Antique Vibrator Collection

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Arctic Vibrator, No. 731

Miss Abigail has a little thing, I guess you could say, about antique vibrators. Don’t get any wild ideas ~ it’s nothing dirty (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) ~  I just love the packaging on those old boxes, trying so carefully to talk about the health benefits of use and the calming effect their products would have on the women who used them, without really mentioning <ahem> the probable use of them.

An example: The directions for the The Arctic Vibrator, which was produced by Sears, Robuck and Company (hey look, they still sell massagers!), state that “Massage is a form of curative treatment which has been known for years, but it is only recently that scientific research has enabled us to put it into practice in a way to obtain quicker and better results. The old fashioned hand massage has been supplanted by the rapid and uniform massage of the electric vibrator.” The instructions go on to suggest the Arctic be used to combat wrinkles and your double chin, for hair and scalp, and after shaving. A perfect product for the home! The closest thing we get to racy is this, about using it for bust development:

Vibratory massage should appeal to women with flat unattractive busts. Apply applicator directly on the bust and massage gently in a circular movement from three to five minutes every day. Do not expect immediate results.

I’ve been meaning to do this for some time, but finally got around to snapping admittedly not-so-great photos of my modest collection. I threw in a few health belts that I also had sitting around, for your viewing pleasure. They’ve got to get packed away for a bit ~ we’re about to put our house on the market and I imagine they might scare potential buyers away!

Arctic Vibrator For more about antique vibrators, visit the Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum. They have a great history section and much better photos than mine!

 

 

Happy Valentines Day!

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends! I thought I’d share with you some recent finds from a shopping trip I took in Austin, Texas, with my budding antique-loving 10 year old niece, Olivia. We had a grand day shopping at Uncommon Objects. She scored a great mechanical pencil and a cute little painted wooden bug, plus we both got some old coke bottle caps and inscribed them with our initials and dates to remember our fun trip by. Talk about love!

Anyway, my big score was four “Your Perfect Wife/Your Perfect Children” cards, from 1935. I have five of the “Your Perfect Husband” cards that I posted on my Facebook page awhile back – sadly I couldn’t immediately find the original images to repost on Flickr (so much for good personal digital preservation practices), and the original cards are somewhere in my messy office. But you might be able to get to them by clicking here.

I hope you enjoy these, I think they are a hoot!
Your Future Wife, Your Future Children

Your Future Wife, Your Future Children

Your Future Wife, Your Future Children

This one is my favorite (seeing as I married a musician):

Your Future Wife, Your Future Children

Apparently I’ve Been Channeling My Grandmother All These Years

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Building Healthy Sex Knowledge, 1937A few months ago, my mother uncovered a college paper that my Grandmother Bailey (her mother) had written when she was at Oberlin College. She saw that the topic was right up my alley, so sent it along to me.

The paper is titled “Building Healthy Sex Knowledge” and was written for a child development course (and is marked up by the professor) by Virginia Moore Patterson 75 years ago ~ on December 15, 1937. I recently scanned the whole thing in and posted it over on Flickr.

Virginia Moore Patterson Bailey

Virginia married Allen Bailey in the summer of 1938, and they went on to have three girls (my mother is the eldest). Here’s a picture of Grandmother Bailey, in a photo dated July 1941, after they’d been married a few years. By the way, Virginia was also the one who enrolled me in charm school when I was in junior high.

Imagine my excitement to read this paper! And to see that my grandmother had cited many books that are in my own collection! They include Growing Up (I’ve got the 1945 edition), Sex Life of Youth (I’ve got the 1948 10th printing), and New Patterns in Sex Teaching (1934).

She starts out the paper by writing “One of my ‘when I grow up’ resolves has been to see that my children where not, like myself, left to their own devices to find out facts about human reproduction, or left to fantastic imaginings as substitutes for knowledge.” Hmm… Maybe my mom and my aunts can let us know how things turned out with that in the comments.

I chuckled at some of the markup, such as on page 10, where next to the text “Here there is a particularly fine presentation on the problems of necking and petting,” the professor writes “be specific here.”  She does go on to mention the “seven tests on page 66 through 72” of The Sex Life of Youth. Though I have a later edition, I excitedly turned to my copy of the book to see if those seven tests would appear, and lo and behold, they were there! I was able to read the seven tests that my grandmother had read and cited 75 years before. I won’t reproduce the full details here, but the topics were:

1) Sensual or Spiritual? How far is the petting a matter of sheer sensual gratification, without any particular respect for the person concerned, and how far is it a natural expression of an understanding which has grown up in the realm of the spirit, and which has become something rarely beautiful and respected?

2) After-Taste? What sort of a taste is left in the mind as one looks back upon the experience?

3) Mutual? Is the relationship honestly shared by both?

4) Habit-Forming? Is the petting so light or temporary that is could hardly result in the fixing of a habit, or is it intense and prolonged and oft-repeated?

5) Further Effects? Is the petting likely to lead to a loss of rational controls and to an indulgence in sex intercourse which one or both will later regret?

6) Socially Acceptable? What is the social status of the person who pets, or who refuses to pet?

7) Exclude Other Activities? What other type of enjoyment is petting preventing?

Sex Life of Youth - cover
The seven tests end with a section titled “Thoughtful Decision.” Here’s an excerpt: “Upon the answers to some such questions as these will depend the judgment in each individual case… Probably some experience with petting will lead any young person to realize the difference between physical stimulation and real love, and will thus help to avoid the difficulties which arose in some cases in which two young people, mistaking infatuation for love, become engaged as a result of a petting party.” Oh my, my grandmother was reading about petting parties possibly at the same time she was dating (and most likely engaged) to my grandfather! Scandalous!

It is refreshing to see how frank her writing is, for a woman of her age and in that era. And so very fun to learn a bit more about Virginia and her college days, and to know that she might have gotten a kick out of this Miss Abigail thing (which came about long after she died).

Thanks to mom for finding this and passing it along! And to Grandmother Bailey for writing it so many years ago.