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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Random 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!

Personality: How to Exert It (1915)

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

“Personality is defined as the qualities or characteristics, personal traits or attributes peculiar to some individual. Specifically, it is that quality which sustains poise through self-control in the face of propitious or unpropitious circumstances,” asserts the preface of H. Laurent’s Personality: How to Build It, which I picked up in Austin last weekend. Do you need to go look up propitious? It’s okay, take your time. I don’t think that word’s been used much lately, except maybe in the National Spelling Bee.

This chapter, titled “Personality: How to Exert It” seemed to be a good one to excerpt for the blog. I found the part on “learn to judge everything for yourself” fitting, given the recent hullabaloo over a certain trial in Florida and some jurors, who were no doubt trying to just do the job they were asked to do, despite the media frenzy.

"In everything, even in the smallest things, get the habit of acting for yourself, without following either the example or the advice you have received. Change them according to your own judgment. Make a style of your own. Do not imitate. It is by imitating that everything original is oneself.

No one in the world is exactly like another. The Creator fashioned us all after a different model. It is ourselves who, by some deplorable turn of our character, have made ourselves all about the same. Follow the laws of nature. Live your own life.

The first thing to avoid is that chronic and contagious folly, fashion, which changes our habits, our thoughts, our body and our life. Accept it only in reasonable form, follow it from a distance and under the least enslaving form.

Conserve your innate originality. Don’t be dragged into tastes which are not your own. Defend yourself against any characteristic of others. Learn to judge everything for yourself without being the perfect repeater of the judgments of others.

It is better to be paradoxical than void of all personality. For there is alway time afterward to correct one’s judgment according to the truth or justice. It gives the mind a chance to work independently, without any help from the brains of others.

Accustom yourself as soon as possible to analytical study. Carefully cultivate your intellect, make things clear to yourself, appraise at its own value what you know well and compare your analyses, your judgments with those already made. Learn to like the unexpected, the new, avoid routine. Be bold, go on ahead. Personality and originality avoid everything that is commonplace.

Practice patience also, kindness to others and will-power. Having developed personality, remember that it should be asserted, and that this exercise is the most difficult part of your task. It depends solely on yourself. Little by little acquire the necessary forces to affirm it."

Invitation for a Drive (1891)

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

I’ve got this pretty beat up book from 1891 called The Business Manual; A Complete Guide in all Mercantile and Legal Transactions and Reference Book for Every Day Use (well used during it’s time, I presume). It covers a wide variety of topics, from how to measure coal, to how to make an ice chest. It also includes handy charts of the weights of cattle and the number of years seeds retain their vitality. It tell business folk of this amazing thing called the “telephone” and describes type-writing. Did you know that “an expert can write from 90 to 100 words a minute and commands a salary of from $10 to $15 a week”?

I loved this section, though, on the “Laws of the Road.” The vehicle of choice that time? Well, the accompanying image says it all:

Laws of the Road

Here’s what the author had to say about driving around at that time:

"The primary law of the road is that all persons using the same must exercise due care to prevent collisions and accidents. No one can claim damages for an injury mainly caused by his own negligence.

Vehicles of every kind, meeting on the highway must keep to the right, if at all possible. When there is no other vehicle near, a driver may use any part of the road he chooses. When two teams are going in the same direction, the one in the lead need not “turn out” if the one in the rear wishes to pass ahead, provided there is room enough at the side to pass by. Every driver is required to use moderation in speed; to keep his carriage, harness, etc., in proper condition, and always to give the right of way to a vehicle with a heavier load than his own.

Riders are not governed by any fixed rules, but are required to use reasonable prudence at all times to prevent accidents. They need less room and can make quicker movements, and are, therefore, not under as well defined rules as vehicles.

Foot-passengers have a right to use the driveway as well as the sidewalk. They must, however, with the driver and rider exercise great care to prevent injury to life and limb while thus walking in, or crossing a public road."

Obviously there were fewer distractions than we have today, but these simple rules could still come in handy.

Once you’ve mastered the road rules, you can send a nice note to a sweetheart to ask her out. This example is from the same book:

Invitation for a Drive

Country vs. City Kids (1891)

Monday, March 14th, 2011

“It cannot be claimed that children brought up in the country are better morally than those brought up in the cities. Evil exists in both places, and much of it cannot be kept from the knowledge of the young. It is seen in the city stripped of its glamour, and with its degrading effects more prominently in view, while in the country the unrestrained imagination is apt to supply fascinations which do not in reality exist. It is often better to know of dangers in order to avoid them than, in ignorance, to grow up with the chances of succumbing to their attractions.”

From the recently acquired book, The Daughter: Her Health, Education, and Wedlock.

“P P” Card

Friday, February 18th, 2011

P P Card

Time for another Fun Card! Here’s one that might come in handy if you’re going on a long road trip this three-day February weekend. Instead of whining, “but dad! I gotta gooooooo!!!!!” just follow the instructions here to alert your driver of the urgency of the matter.

How to Tell Disposition and Character by the Nose

Saturday, December 11th, 2010
nose

The Grotke Nose

I’m digging around my books looking for things to feature in a holiday gift ideas post, but came across this and thought you might enjoy. It’s from Professor Jefferis’ and J.L. Nichols’ Search Lights on Health: Light on Dark Corners, which was published in 1911. This book is packed with information about sex, purity, love, courtship, marriage, families, diseases and other health related topics. It’s all here, including a whole section on “How to Read Character,” with the first part focusing on the nose…

~~

1. Large Noses. ~ Bonaparte chose large-nosed men for his generals, and the opinion prevails that large noses indicate long heads and strong minds. Not that great noses cause great minds, but that the motive or powerful temperament cause both.

2. Flat Noses. ~ Flat noses indicate flatness of mind and character, by indicating a poor, low organic structure.

3. Broad Noses. ~ Broad noses indicate large passageways to the lungs, and this, large lungs and vital organs, and this, great strength of constitution, and hearty animal passions along with selfishness; for broad noses, broad shoulders, broad heads, and large animal organs go together. But when the nose is narrow at the base, the nostrils are small, because the lungs are small and need but small avenues for air; and this indicates a predisposition to consumptive complaints, along with an inactive brain and nervous system, and a passionate fondness for literary pursuits.

4. Sharp Noses. ~ Sharp noses indicate a quick, clear, penetrating, searching, knowing sagacious mind, and also a scold; indicate warmth of love, hate, generosity, moral sentiment ~ indeed, positiveness in everything.

5. Blunt Noses. ~ Blunt noses indicate and accompany obtuse intellects and perceptions, sluggish feelings, and a soulless character.

6. Roman Noses. ~ The Roman Nose indicates a martial spirit, love of debate, resistance, and strong passions, while hallow, pug noses indicate a tame, easy, inert, sly character, and straight, finely-formed Grecian noses harmonious characters. Seek their acquaintance.

~~

The other ways to read character, according to the authors, are by:

  • Stature
  • The Walk
  • Laughing
  • The Mode of Shaking Hands
  • The Mouth and Eyes
  • Color of the Hair
  • a few bonus “secretive dispositions”

I’ll take requests if anyone would like to learn more about any of the above!

Is a Man Abnormal if He Likes Art and Dislikes Sports?

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Sex Questions and AnswersI’ve got a husband who likes art and dislikes sports (and he seems to be well-adjusted), so I was a bit intrigued to read this excerpt in a new addition to my collection, the book Sex Questions and Answers: A Guide to Happy Marriage by Fred Brown and Rudolf T. Kempton. I’m not sure what this has to do with sex, though the authors may have felt it was an important issue ~ it’s in the chapter titled “Problems of Sexual Adjustment.”

~~~

Every normal man has a bit of woman in him and every woman contains some of the male in her personality. There is, generally speaking, no such thing as an “ideal” combination of masculinity and femininity in one person. In some primitive societies the females are breadwinners while the males do the housework and gossip. In other societies both men and women play dominant roles. Among ourselves it has, until very recently, been the accepted pattern for males to be dominant or “masculine” while females were expected to be “feminine” or passive. The ideal combination of traits, evidently, is whatever is regarded as most desirable in the particular society in which the person lives. Our standard requires that a man be aggressive and “ambitious” in his lifework, that he exhibit an acceptable interest in “male” recreations such as sports, that he look forward to marriage and the rearing of family, and that he seek enjoyment from the companionship of other men. The feminine part of him should enable him to show warmth and affection toward others, an interest in the arts, kindness and consideration. There are many men who would have a feeling for fine paintings, flowers, and the gentler aspects of life if this sensitivity had not been squelched early in life by an insecure father who insisted that these represented “sissy” interests. An excessive interest in sports to the exclusion of other interests may reveal limitations in the personality range and, in excess, a prolonged adolescent identification of manliness with the possession of physical prowess. Everyone tries to select from the environment those aspects of it which suit his intellectual and emotional needs. Some of those selections will be based upon inner weaknesses which require identification with a powerful football team and the need to win, while others will seek more passive and less muscular pursuits. Neither one nor the other is “abnormal” but merely reflects the different ways in which individual differences cause people to take from the environment whatever they need. The best balance of masculine and feminine traits is achieved when the individual is able to mingle with members of his own and the opposite sex without experiencing tension and strain.

~~~

Now that I think about it, I suppose tension and strain during sex might be a problem.

Looking for Glove Etiquette or Info on the Sears Discovery Charm School?

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

With the site redesign, I had to completely redo how my old advice pages were displaying. They are now all blog posts.

Two popular posts from the old site are now in new locations. If you are looking for glove etiquette, it’s here: http://www.missabigail.com/advice/beauty-and-charm/2010/08/glove-etiquette/

And the one on the Sears charm school is here: http://www.missabigail.com/news/2008/01/sears-discovery-charm-school-ring-any-bells/

If you tried to post any comments since April to the charm school, I couldn’t transition them over to the new site unfortunately. Feel free to post again!

The search box works really well, as does the tag cloud into the advice, but if you’re having trouble finding something else you enjoyed from the old version of the site let me know and I can point you in the right direction.

-Miss Abigail

Summertime Hints

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Founded in 1868 by J. R. Watkins, the Watkins Company, as evidenced in their company history, was a pioneer in natural products to cure, clean, cook with, drink, and kill insects with.

Elaine Allen, Director of Home Economics at the company, put together the 1941 book Watkins Household Hints which I perused this morning to find some random handy hints to help make the last month of your summer even better!

Vacation Hints
Know the source of your drinking water and milk. If in doubt of its purity, boil the water. Never drink water from streams or wells. For a day’s outing, carry milk and water in a thermos bottle. When touring in Mexico and South America, all drinking water should be boiled or add chlorazine tablets to purify the water.

Swimming
Exhale through the nose while under water and inhale through the mouth while swimming on the surface. This will maintain a positive air pressure in the nasal cavities, protecting the nose and ears from infection. Ear plugs or soft wool may be used in the ear.

Mosquitoes
Malaria and yellow fever are carried by certain kinds of mosquitoes. Use Watkins Fly Spray or Watkins Fly and Moth Spray freely when sitting on an unscreened porch, at picnics and outdoor gatherings. Kill young mosquitoes or wrigglers in pools, rain barrels, or where water collects, with Watkins Fly Spray. Pour a little of the liquid on the surface. Use household ammonia for mosquito bites and dust with Watkins Talcum.

Heat – Summer
Observe healthful living habits – sufficient sleep, daily baths, a well-selected and moderate diet, plenty of water, regular and thorough elimination. Eat less food in extremely hot weather. Eat crisp salads, green vegetables and fruit – leave the table a little hungry. Avoid hot drinks and alcoholic beverages, because they generate heat and increase discomfort. Iced tea is excellent. Exercise heats the body and should be taken in moderation, with frequent rest periods. Use a liberal amount of salt with food, unless your doctor has advised otherwise. Do not allow your thoughts to dwell on the heat, be calm, and keep out of the sun. A cloth wrung out of cold water and lightly covered with a piece of think cheesecloth will, if placed on the forehead, back of neck and over each wrist, reduce the temperature and induce sleep. Keep cloth cold, or use an ice bag.

Blueberry Stain
1. Use Watkins Spot Remover. Follow directions.
2. Sponge stain with lukewarm water. If stain remains, use a few drops of oxalic acid.
3. Rinse thoroughly.

Marshmallows and Wieners – To Roast
A wire corn popper is excellent for roasting wieners or marshmallows over an open fire. You can roast more at a time and the meat juice is not lost because of punctured skin.

Twelve Steps to Success in Public Speaking

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

enthusiasm is catchingI’ve been busy preparing for a talk I gave last week at the American Studies Association conference in Detroit. I was on a panel that discussed secondhand shops and thrift stores, and told all about purchasing books for this site.

Since I spend more time behind the safety of the keyboard, I was a bit nervous about speaking in public. Ruth Tolman’s Charm and Poise for Getting Ahead saved me, thankfully, and the talk went off without a hitch. And I didn’t even get a chance to size up the audience first!
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