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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Petting and Sex Archive

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:

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!

 

 

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.

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!

The Frighteningly Illustrated Encyclopedia of Sex (1950/1977)

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Illustrated Encyclopedia of SexI meant to post this earlier this week, but in the D.C. region we’ve been overcome in the last few days by earthquakes and impending hurricanes, so it’s been a bit hectic. As I reported over on my Facebook page, a few stacks of paperbacks fell off the tops of my bookshelves during the earthquake this week, but all in all we fared pretty well and the books stayed on the shelves, and the shelves remained upright. Whew! My parent’s house (near the fault line), also full of books, didn’t have much damage either, luckily. But still, a crazy week!

This was worth the wait, I must tell you. I’ve been wanting to do a post on this book for some time, but for whatever reasons over the years I thought it might be a bit too racy for a general audience. But heck, we’re in 2011, and if you can’t look at a 1950s book with wacko illustrations trying to explain sex, you shouldn’t be on my site.

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Sex, written by Dr. A Willy, Dr. L. Vander, and Dr. O Fisher “and other authorities” was first published in England in 1950. Revised editions appeared later, and I’ve actually got a paperback 8th printing from October 1977 (the first printing in the U.S.!) in my collection. The preface of this later edition discusses the “important new discovers in the field of sexology… relating to very recent developments in birth control.”

I must admit I’ve never managed to actually read this book. Every time I open it I get so distracted by the images that I can’t help myself. I think the authors would be okay with that, though. The preface explains: “there is one feature of this book of which we are particularly proud ~ the illustrations! One hundred and seventy-six of them, representing every aspect of sex, but particularly the functional aspect, and explaining every process in the male and femail organism so clearly that no one can fail to understand them. We can say, with every confidence, that this long series of illustrations, is unique and unprecedented.” To say the least.

 

Menstruation

“Picture story of woman’s excitation curve. The menstrual cycle of woman for two consecutive months.” I’m certainly glad I didn’t see this when I first got my period! I would have been terrified.

Foods that Improve Sexual Function

I always enjoy learning what foods might improve sexual function. The books have quite a bit of information on this topic, including this one (apologies for the faint scan, it was hard to get).”


Birth Control

This was in the section on birth control, but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to learn from this: “A section of the fallopian tube considerably enlarged, showing in three dimensions, the strange interior. How the spermatozoa hasten to meet the ovum which proceeds toward the uterus.”

The Ovary
“Larger than life-size picture of interior of ovary, in woman’s process of impregnation.” What the heck is that in the lower right? I didn’t know I had a flower growing inside of me.

Physical Causes of Sexual Impotence
Apparently this is the “Picture story of normal physical and psychological potency.” I guess this is what happens when boys are making googly eyes at us ladies.

Delaying Sexual Death

“Picture story of man at different ages.” Yeah, that looks about right.

If you want a further glance at (color!) images from another edition, head on over to the fabulous Studies in Crap blog on the LA Weekly site. I found this post while Googling for more information about the book, and decided not to rescan the ones he’d featured but give you some others to look at. EXCEPT for this one, which was clearly updated for my version! I think my ladies at the top is a bit more enticing, don’t you? The ’70s were way more fun, clearly.

Why Man has nocturnal losses of seman

 Note: post edited September 8, 2011 to redo the images. They now point off to Flickr…

Shopping for Books the Old Fashioned Way

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

“Sixth Thousand Now Ready!” “An Important Book for the Family and School!” “An Attractive and Useful Gift” read the ad, found in the back of the 1894 printing of The Physician’s Wife, which I recently I picked up in Baltimore. How could I not be intrigued? Ads often appear in the back of some of my older books, a great place for publishers to have advertised new titles. Unfortunately I couldn’t send away for a copy using the instructions in the ad (“price, post-paid: $1.00 net”) – although it appears the company is still in business. The interwebs became my friend, however, as I turned to AbeBooks to hunt down a copy of the 1891 The Daughter: Her Health, Education, and Wedlock. Lucky for me a seller had it for a reasonable price, and a few days later, a copy was in my collection!

The DaughterI’ve only just begun to read it, but already found some  gems like this, about a mother’s duty to inform her daughter of sexual matters:

~~~

To preserve the charm of true modesty and innocence, it is safer for the girl that she be instructed concerning the requirements of personal purity, rather than be allowed to grope amid chance experiences and to run the risks of unfriendly influences. Experience is the only teacher for all, but in many things the lessons may be taken at second hand, and the wise do well to profit by the experiences of others. Although it may be a difficult duty to perform, no careful mother will neglect to properly instruct her daughter in matters relating to the sexual nature. Thoughts upon this subject cannot be avoided, but will arise as mind and body develop, and they should be wisely and intelligently directed in confidential talks skillfully planned and discreetly managed by the mother.

Sexual matters are not motives and aims in life, but they imperiously mingle with and influence all motives and aims. They are inseparable from existence, and though important must be made subordinate, and though irrepressible must be held in subjection. To ignore them is as fatal to happiness and success in life as to allow them to be the objects of chief pursuit. To underrate their influence is a great mistake; it must be justly appreciated in order to maintain an effective control by the stronger forces of the intellect and the will. Let it be remembered how large a portion of human misery results from the disorderly animal passion. Much of this should be withheld from the knowledge of the young, but enough for their own safety may be pointed out by the mother, and be accompanied by such admonitions as seem suitable in each individual case. That the duty is a delicate one is surrounded by difficulties affords no reason for its avoidance, but rather calls for redoubled tact and a superior skill, which will not fail of their aim when instigated by the loving instinct of a true mother’s heart.

~~~

Flipping to the back of The Daughter, I of course notice a few more ads. I wonder if I can find Hartvig Nissen’s ABC of the Swedish System of Educational Gymnastics? or John V. Shoemaker’s  Heredity, Health, and Personal Beauty? Or Plain Talk on Avoided Subjects, by Henry N. Guernsey?

 

 

How to Win a Woman, part II (1923)

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Recently, I featured some advice from the lovely and talented Elinor Glyn on how to win a woman. Excerpted from her 1923 book The Philosophy of Love, Glyn tells the story of Richard, who is trying to woo his love, Sallie. We left off wondering if any of Glyn’s tips might have paid off for our dear sweet Richard. Let’s read on and see…

~~

He has met Sallie several times, but seems not to have been able to make much advance. He has been just ordinary and has talked of the everlasting old things that he has talked to every girl about since he first went to school. Now the next time they meet he must turn the conversation on to personal things and get her to tell him her likes and her tastes; he must make her talk about herself (not a very difficult matter with most women!), and he must plainly show his interest. He must let her feel her maneuvering to be alone with her and desires her company. And the more he lets her see that his character is strong, the more he will attract her.

It is not of the slightest consequence how masterful a man shows himself to be, if at the same time he is a passionate lover ~ the woman in the case will always adore him. It is coldness and casualness which disillusionise, and, as I said in another chapter, above all, mulish wordlessness!

~~

Glyn goes on to give some examples of ways to show that a man loves a woman, depending on the type of girl she is and what she might respond to. It’s quite long so I will cut to the chase and get back to how Richard and Sallie are doing, in particular:

~~

When he is quite sure that she loves him, and when the psychological moment has arrived that he asks her to marry him, he must see that his caresses are tender as well as passionate, for exquisite caresses are the strongest of love awakeners. The touch of a hand in passing is enough to make a delicious thrill! It starts the working of the magnet, and that is why continuous flirtations are so stupid.

Lovers always like to be close together. And if touching grows to mean nothing to them, then they may know very well that the intoxication is over, and at best a friendship is between them. Love always manifest itself in the desire to touch the Beloved One.

When Richard marries Sallie he can almost certainly keep her in love with him if he desires to do so. He has only to remain a masterful and fond lover to accomplish this miracle, and not subside into the usual stodgy, complacent husband, absorbed in business and too tired when he comes home to be agreeable!

~~

In my next post, I’ll share some parting thoughts from Glyn on how Richard and Sallie (and all of you out there) might keep that love going.

Invitation Card

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Now here’s a fun card. Perhaps it counts as a new spin on the classic “why don’t you come up and see my etchings?”  Wikipedia tells me that familiar phrase has been around since 1891.

Professor Huggum

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Professor Huggum

Yet another card in this month’s Fun Card series: “Wholesale dealer in Love, Hugs, Squeezes and Kisses… samples free on request!” Hee! This one speaks for itself.