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!


News 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!

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.


Happy 2013!

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Happy New Year everyone! I’ve been bringing in the New Year by cleaning up my office, straightening my bookshelves and weeding out some duplicate copies of books. I plan to do some giveaways over the next few months to pass the extra copies along to others who might enjoy. Stay tuned here and on my Facebook page for more details.

Another task has been to clean up my unused iPad apps and reorganize the remaining ones. While doing so I was reminded of my WordPress app that allows me to post to the website while mobile. Totally forgot I had that! I’m currently typing from the living room – how exotic!

I hope 2013 brings you whatever you desire!

Recent Acquisitions

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Manual of Health for Women: Illustrated
There have been some recent acquisitions to Miss Abigail’s collection to tell you about.

This summer, while on I paid way too much for a book I couldn’t resist – it is titled: Manual of Health for Women: Plain advice in sickness and health (1906). Just look at this cover! It is “respectfully dedicated to the women of America by the Author.” I’m a sucker for the old health books, particularly aimed at the ladies. The preface describes “female troubles” which are “so frequent especially among the so-called better classes that one rarely finds a healthy woman.” The author hoped to diminish the suffering of these women by imparting wisdomn of diseases and medical advice. I sure hope it worked!

Back in October, I scored big at the annual Library of Congress staff book sale. Among my finds were:

Life Saving & Water Safety (1937) (lots of images of tipping canoes);

A Cooperative Method of Natural Birth Control (1976) with a lovely photo of morning glories on the cover and other flowery images inside;

The Art of Counseling: How to Gain and Give Mental Health (1939);

Booklet for Women Who Wish to Determine Their Own Names After Marriage (1974), published by the Center for a Woman’s Own Name (let me just file that under “so glad times have changed”);

Your Wedding: How to Plan and Enjoy It (1977 ed.);

Working Wardrobe: Affordable Clothes that Work for You! (1982). A little beyond my collecting years through the 1970s, but I guess as we age it can’t hurt to expand into the 1990s! Besides, the big hairdos are priceless.

(I paid only $3 for the lot! Does that make up for my expensive purchase?)

Somewhere along the way I also picked up Home Entertaining: A Complete Guide (I think at an estate sale). Published in 1950, this one should be fun to peruse for holiday party tips!

Housewifery (1919)And most recently, my mom found Housewifery: A Manual and Text Book of Practical Housekeeping, by Lydia Ray Balderston (1919) at a yard sale, and donated it to the cause just last week. It was part of Lippincott’s Home Manuals, a series of books with other topics such as clothing, successfully canning and preserving, home hygiene, household business, laundering, and millinery.






The book has some wonderful illustrations and photographs, such as this one which would have helped with my recent bathroom renovation. Apologies for the crooked photo, I was in a rush and didn’t get around to fixing it before posting.

Types of Flooring

Mom and I were also enjoying the cleaning supplies and equipment. This one shows an early clothes dryer that clearly didn’t take off.

Metal Clothes Drying Cabinet

She also showed me some fun stuff about vacuum cleaners. That reminds me, I keep trying to teach the dogs to vacuum but they are slow to learn. Maybe I’ll read it out loud to them!

Takoma Park (MD) Authors’ Book Sale

Monday, November 26th, 2012

This Saturday, December 1, 2012, I’ll be signing and selling books at the 4th Annual Takoma Park Authors’ Book Sale. Details are below:


Come meet Takoma Park authors, who will be selling and signing their books.
There will be a great selection – and books make great holiday gifts!


 Saturday, December 1
1:30-3:30 p.m.

Presbyterian Church
Corner of Tulip & Maple Aves. (Enter on Tulip via playground, door on left)

Local authors will be selling and signing books of every ilk and genre.

ALSO happening nearby:

* Alternative Gift Fair
*  Takoma Park Craftwoman’s 31st Annual Holiday Show and Sale

Hope to see you there!


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.

Sears Charm Book available for sale

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

For those of you looking for copies of the Sears Discovery Charm School book, a reader over on Facebook says she’s got one she’d be willing to part with.

It’s got a 1965 copyright on it. “Great condition…..only my name is written in pencil in the front. Front page has 2 holes that pulled through,” she reports. She’s going to try to provide a photo soon…

If anyone’s interested, contact me via email (see above left).