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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Health Archive

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!

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!

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!

 

 

Prostration by Heat (1931)

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog as of late. I’ve been posting over on Facebook and Twitter (the lazy blogger’s way of staying connected). The big news since I last updated here is that the Off-Broadway show that was loosely based on my book, has closed as of the end of June. It had a good long run! And the show is still playing in the Czech Republic, so that’s pretty cool. It’s also available for others to buy up the subsidiary rights.

The other news has been the crazy weather in the D.C. area this week. Between the derecho and power and cable and internet and phone outages and extreme hot temps, I think we’ve had about enough excitement. We didn’t quite hit the goal of the all-time-record of 106° yesterday here in the D.C. area, but that’s okay by me.

Besides napping yesterday and keeping cool, I spent some indoor time adding to my LibraryThing catalog. I have a backlog of books to include (at least a few hundred more), plus recent editions, like a huge tome called Domestic Medical Practice: A Household Advisor in the Treatment of Diseases, Arranged for Family Use that I got an an estate sale for $1 (score!). This book has 1463 pages of text, fabulous images, and certificates of membership in the “Domestic Medical Society” (I suppose that after you’ve read the book, you are worthy).

Certificate of Membership

The following section, titled “Prostration by Heat,” seemed particularly fitting to share today:

"This may results not only from direct exposure to the sun’s rays, but it is liable to occur under any circumstances where a person is overheated, and is more frequent in a moist atmosphere than in a dry….

The attack may come on quite suddenly, or it may be preceded by quite severe pain in the head, great sense of heat, and thirst. It is said, there is often frequent desire to make water. The patient may fall suddenly, or may gradually succumb, after having suffered a time from headache, heat, and a great sense of fatigue. The symptoms vary. Commonly, however, the pulse is frequent, though weak, in which it differs from the pulse of apoplexy, where the pulse is slow and strong. The circumstances under which a person becomes unconscious must serve to a certain extent as a guide to the unprofessional observer as to its cause, and should a person becomes unconscious when in the hot sun, or while exerting himself violently in a very highly heated atmosphere, and at the same time the skin be found very hot indeed, it would be proper to act upon the supposition the the person was suffering from sunstroke, as it is called. The danger arises from the great elevate of temperature….

hot stuff

The patient may be laid on the ground or floor, or anywhere else, and all clothing removed from the neck and chest. Ice may be applied to the head, or water may be poured over the head and neck, and even the chest. Should medical aid be within easy reach, these measures will suffice until its arrival….

It should be remembered that sunstroke is a grave accident, and its treatment should not be trusted to domestic remedies, since it is impossible to so describe its symptoms or treatment, as to safely guide an unskilled person in caring for a difficult case….

A person who has a slight attack of sunstroke as manifested by headache, dizziness, and great heat, should under no circumstances, after having been relieved by cold water and rest, return at once to work, since he is liable to suffer again, even more severely than at first."

The above image, while it was in this book, didn’t technically go with this section, but I thought it was amusing!

 

 

The Care and Feeding of Children: Airing (1907)

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

My fabulous friends Laura and Dave are, in the next few weeks, about to have their lives changed by the arrival of a bouncing baby boy. Upon realizing that I had an extra copy of a book called The Care and Feeding of Children, I passed along the 1920s version (I kept the 1907 copy for the collection) to counterbalance all of the probably-more-relevant advice they are getting from more modern-day baby books.

The book was written by L. Emmett Holt, who was a well-known pediatrician back in the day. The book, according to the NIH website, was “originally written as a manual to assist the training of nurses at the Babies’ Hospital” and was quite popular, with 12 editions and an amazing 75 printings. Check around your houses; no doubt there are many copies still out there in people’s attics! Wonderfully, you can see the whole text of the 1894 version here).

For Laura and David, who were recently shocked to learn at a baby class they should not leave the house with the child for months and months, I thought this advice on “airing” the baby would be fitting. Airing indoors sure sounds like fun!

"

How early may airing indoors be commenced and how long may it be continued?

Airing in the room may be begun, even in cold weather, when the child is one month old, at first for only fifteen minutes at a time. This period may be gradually lengthened by ten or fifteen minutes each day until it is four or five hours. This airing may be contained in almost all kinds of weather.

Is there is not great danger of a young baby’s taking cold when aired in this manner?

Not if the period is at first show and the baby accustomed to it gradually. Instead of rendering the child liable to take cold, it is the best means of preventing colds.

How should such an airing be given?

The child should be dressed with bonnet and light coat as if for the street and placed in its crib or carriage which should stand a few feet from the window. All the windows are then thrown wide open, but the doors closed to prevent draughts. Screens are unnecessary.

At what age may a child go out of doors?

In summer, when one week old; in spring and fall, usually about one month; in winter, when about three months old, on pleasant days, being kept in the sun and out of the wind.

What are the best hours for airing out of doors? 

In summer and early autumn a child may be out almost any time between seven in the morning and sunset; in winter and early spring, a young child only between 10 or 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., although this depends somewhat upon the climate. In New York and along the Atlantic coast the early mornings are apt to be damp and the afternoons raw and cloudy.

On what kind of days should a baby not go out?

In sharp winds, when the ground is covered with melting snow, and when it is extremely cold. A child under four months old should not usually go out if the thermometer is below freezing point; nor one under eight months old if it is below 20° F.

What are the most important things to be attended to when the child is out in its carriage?

To see that the wind never blows in its face, that the feet are properly covered and warm, and that the sun is never allowed to shine directly into the eyes when the child is either asleep or awake.

Of what advantage to the child is the going out?

Fresh air is required to renew and purify the blood, and this is just as necessary for health and growth as proper food.

What are the effects produced in infants by fresh air?

The appetite is improved, the digestion is better, the cheeks become red, and all signs of health are seen.

Is there any advantage in having a child take its airing during the first five or six months in the nurse’s arms?

None whatever. A child can be made much more comfortable in a baby carriage, and can be equally well protected against exposure by blankets and the carriage umbrella.

What are the objections to an infant’s sleeping out of doors?

There are no real objections. It is not true that infants take cold more easily when asleep than awake, while it is almost invariably the case that those who sleep out of doors are stronger children and less prone to take cold than others.

What can be done for infants who take cold upon the slightest provocation?

They should be kept in cool rooms, and especially when asleep. They should not wear such heavy clothing that they are in a perspiration much of the time. Every morning the body, particularly the chest and back, should be sponged with cold water (50° to 60° F.).

How should this cold sponge bath be given?

The child should stand in a tub containing a little warm water, and a large bath sponge filled with cold water should be squeezed two to three times over the body. This should be followed by a vigorous rubbing with a towel until the skin is quite red. This may be used at three years, and often at two years. In the case of infants a little higher temperature (65° to 70°) may be used."

Brrrr!!!

Personal Hygiene for Young Women and Men (1920s)

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

For my day job, I work at the Library of Congress helping archive the Internet, and I don’t often get to see the physical stuff in our collections. So when a colleague tipped me off to some amazing films from the 1920s that had apparently been in our nitrate vault and scored by another colleague, I was really excited! These predecessors to the health and hygiene films of the 1950s are fantastic. I posted these over on Facebook but they deserve a more permanent blog post, so here you are:

First up is one for the men:

 

And even better, one for the young ladies:

 

Enjoy!

How to Cure Chapped Lips (1916)

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Wondering how to cure chapped lips?

Instructions from a 1916 book by Professor T. W. Shannon:

~~

Take 2 ounces of white wax, I ounce of spermaceti, 4 ounces of oil of almonds, 2 ounces of honey, 1/4 of an ounce of essence of bergamot, or any other scent. Melt the wax and spermaceti; then add the honey, and melt all together, and when hot add the almond oil by degrees, stirring until cold.

2. Take oil of almonds 3 ounces; spermaceti, 1/2 ounce; virgin rice, 1/2 ounce. Melt these together over a slow fire, mixing with them a little powder of alkane root to color it. Keep stirring till cold, and then add a few drops of the oil of rhodium.

3. Take oil of almonds, spermaceti, white wax and white sugar candy, equal parts.

These form a good, white lip salve.

~~

Instructions from Miss Abigail, 2011:

~~

1. Head on over to your local drugstore, down the toothpaste isle, and purchase lip balm.

2. Even easier: click here, pick one, place order. Wait until delivered.

These provide good, white (possible other colors) lip salves.

~~

 

Sears Discovery Charm School: Exercise

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Peggy Flemming

Per Lynette’s suggestion, Part II of my series on excerpts from the Sears Discover Charm School book (ca. 1972 version) will focus on exercise. This chapter features none other than Olympic skater Peggy Flemming!

Peggy, take it away:

~~

A smooth flowing body. A tingle. A good feeling all over. A scrumptious look. A healthy body. There’s an endless list of good things that happen to you through exercise. It should be enough to make everyone head for the nearest pair of sneakers each morning. But it isn’t. A lot of people still manage to avoid exercise. Mostly because they’re not quite sure about what they should do. And they never get to the point where exercising becomes a regular part of their day. That’s where they get stuck. Here’s how to switch things around  and get unstuck. Here’s how you get going.

The first thing to do is to set aside a certain time of the day…every day…for exercise. Be a wildcat about staying with it. You might find the morning a good time because it can become part of your getting-up routine like brushing your teeth, showering and putting yourself together.

There are many different ways to exercise. Walking, bike riding, swimming, things like that are all good. And very important. But there are other exercises that are equally important. Exercises designed to zero in on certain parts of the body. These are the streamliners. They not only work for a firmer and more supple you, they also give you the kind of physical awareness that shows through when you stand or walk or move.

If you’re planning a career in modeling or fashion or as a performer, these are particularly important for you since your physical appearance is so much a part of your work.

You might recognize some of these streamliners as looking like the exercises done in a ballet class. And you’d be right. I’ve put them into this program because I feel that ballet is probably one of the best ways to reach the hard-to-get-to muscles. The ones that don’t ordinarily get worked on in other kinds of exercise. They make for that smooth and firm look and help you move easily and naturally. That’s what we’re after. All of this will take time and effort. But it’s worth it. Don’t be a softie because of excuses. Stay with it. You might find it hard in the beginning but when you start to see and feel results, it might even get to be fun.

~~

The following images are some, though not all, of the suggested exercises. I particularly like the bosom and hip and buttocks exercises. Now that looks like some fun!

Warm up, head and neck, shoulders

This “Chart your own course” page is partially filled in by the book’s original owner. She didn’t follow through, it appears, so we’ll never know what her finish measurements were. But you know what that means, less for you to white out and and fill in your own numbers!

Next up in the series: Voice and Speech.