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!


Posts Tagged ‘1930s’

Yola, the Teenage Witch

Monday, August 30th, 2010

are the working conditions pleasant?Q Dear Miss Abigail:

I would like to become a witch. It seems very stupid and funny, but it is what I would like to learn more about. I fill that I have some potential to make that possible. Please advise me where to start.


A Dear Yola:

Choosing a career is often a difficult decision. In your case, being a witch is really a religious choice and not a career choice, but I think some of the same principles would apply. So before you move to Salem to start a new life, use the following checklist from Everyday Living for Girls to ask yourself some questions about your “career” choice. Is this really what you want to do? Will you make enough money to support you and your coven?

1936: Things To Look For in Your Study of the Vocational Field

In your study of the vocational field answer the following questions, recording your findings in a notebook or file; then compare your findings in several fields and see in which you are most interested:

1.What are the duties to be performed in the occupation? Is the work varied or monotonous? Why?
2. Is the activity involved chiefly mental or physical? Are any special mental qualifications required?
3. Does the occupation have to do with people or things? If with people, how will their type affect you?
4. List the various occupations within this field and check the one in which one is usually first employed.
5. What are the education requirements?
6. What are the facilities for obtaining this education: (a) over the country; (b) in your locality?
7. How expensive is it to prepare yourself?
8. What is the chance for advancement, and through what steps is it accomplished?
9. Are there special physical requirements as to age, height, build, color, or others?
10. Will one’s tenure be affected by advancing years, regardless of the quality of one’s work?
11. Are the working conditions pleasant, healthful, and conducive to best effort?
12. Are the hours of work reasonable and regular?
13. Is the work dangerous, and to what extent?
14. Is the work steady or seasonal, and is there much overtime, night work, or rush work?
15. How many persons are engaged in this vocation, and is the occupation overcrowded?
16. What is the beginner’s salary? If the salary of a beginner is low, are there opportunities or advantages which make up for this?
17. In later years will there be time and sufficient income for recreation, enjoyment of home life, and participation in social and civic affairs? If you hope to marry, how will this vocation affect opportunities for social acquaintance?
18. What satisfactions, opportunities, advantages, or reward will you derive other than those of a financial nature?
19. Are workers paid by the piece, hour, or day? Do they receive a commission?
20. What pay does overtime work receive?
21. Does the occupation involve profit sharing?
22. Is a bonus paid?
23. Does the occupation carry sick benefits, workman’s compensation, pension?
24. Is the vocation likely to change on account of new inventions, a change in public taste, or modern trends?
25. Can you change to some kindred occupation if necessary? To what would you turn?
26. What social relation to the community does the work have?
27. How much vacation is allowed? Is it with or without pay?
28. How does one get a job in this field? 

Source: Van Duzer, Adelaide Laura, et. al. Everyday Living for Girls. Chicago: J. B. Lippincott Company,1936.
~ pp. 226-27 ~

Do People Like You?

Monday, August 30th, 2010

do you avoid being bold and nervy?Okay, everybody, it’s quiz time again! Get those pencils sharpened, because being liked is a most wonderful thing, and I sure want all of you to be as likeable as you possibly can. This self-analysis tool was published in Unit One of the Personality Development Series, written by Estelle Hunter. And in case anyone was wondering, my score was 59. I suppose I’ve got a bit of improving to do, but no matter what, I absolutely refuse to change my answers to #4 or #35.

1939: Do People Like You?

Every normal, healthy individual wants to be liked by others. If you have ever said that you didn’t care whether or not people liked you, you probably weren’t really honest with yourself. Perhaps you were trying to cover up hurt pride. The person who says bitterly, ‘I don’t care,’ really does care a great deal. He should face the fact squarely and try to discover the reason for lack of harmony in his relationships with others.

Donald A. Laird, after a series of experiments made in the Colgate Psychological Laboratory to determine what traits were of most importance in making people liked or disliked, compiled the list of 45 questions which is quoted below.

Give yourself a score of 3 for each of these questions to which you can answer ‘Yes’:
1. Can you always be depended upon to do what you say you will?
2. Do you go out of your way cheerfully to help others?
3. Do you avoid exaggeration in all your statements?
4. Do you refrain from being sarcastic?
5. Do you refrain from showing off how much you know?
6. Do you feel inferior to most of your associates?
7. Do you refrain from bossing people not employed by you?
8. Do you keep from reprimanding people who do things that displease you?
9. Do you refrain from making fun of others behind their backs?
10. Do you keep from domineering others?

Give yourself a score of 2 for each of these questions to which you can answer ‘Yes’:
11. Do you keep your clothing neat and tidy?
12. Do you avoid being bold and nervy?
13. Do you refrain from laughing at the mistakes of others?
14. Is your attitude toward the opposite sex free from vulgarity?
15. Do you keep from finding fault with everyday things?
16. Do you let the mistakes of others pass without correcting them?
17. Do you loan things to others readily?
18. Are you careful not to tell jokes that will embarrass those listening?
19. Do you let others have their own way?
20. Do you always control your temper?
21. Do you keep out of arguments?
22. Do you smile pleasantly?
23. Do you refrain from talking almost continuously?
24. Do you keep your nose entirely out of other people’s business?

Give yourself a score of 1 for each of these questions to which you can answer ‘Yes’:
25. Do you have patience with modern ideas?
26. Do you refrain from flattering others?
27. Do you avoid gossiping?
28. Do you refrain from asking people to repeat what they have just said?
29. Do you avoid asking questions in keeping up a conversation?
30. Do you avoid asking favors of others?
31. Do you refrain from trying to reform others?
32. Do you keep your personal troubles to yourself?
33. Are you natural rather than dignified?
34. Are you usually cheerful?
35. Are you conservative in politics?
36. Are you enthusiastic rather than lethargic?
37. Do you pronounce words correctly?
38. Do you look upon others without suspicion?
39. Are you energetic?
40. Do you avoid borrowing things?
41. Do you refrain from telling people their moral duty?
42. Do you refrain from trying to convert people to your beliefs?
43. Do you refrain from talking rapidly?
44. Do you refrain from laughing loudly?
45. Do you refrain from making fun of people to their faces?

The higher your score by this self-analysis the better liked you are in general. Each ‘No’ answer should be changed through self-guidance into a ‘Yes’ answer. The highest possible score is 79. About 10% of people have this score. The lowest score made by a person who was generally liked was 56. The average young person has a score of 64. The average score of a person who is generally disliked it 30. The lowest score we found was 12.

From these questions it is apparent that whether you are liked or disliked depends chiefly upon your attitude toward others. All your efforts at self-improvement will be of no avail if you think only of building up your own superiority. The consciously superior, the self-righteous person is never popular. If you would be liked, don’t try to impress the other person with your importance; make him feel important; show your interest in him.

Source: Hunter, Estelle B. Personality Development, Unit One: Your Physical Self. Chicago: The Better-Speech Institute of America, 1939.
~ pp. 120-22 ~

Feuding Friends

Monday, August 30th, 2010

those you meet on a journeyQ Dear Miss Abigail:

My friend and I are fighting. I want us to continue being friends, but we’re both stubborn. What should I do?


A Dear Vanessa:

You don’t mention why you are fighting, but I have a feeling it might be related to some common issues that all friends seem to fight about ~ like what’s the best breakfast cereal, or what is saner ~ getting up early or sleeping late. Oh, no, that’s not it. Hmmm… maybe it is related to some of the issues mentioned in the following passage from the 1936 home ecomomics textbook titled Everyday Living for Girls.

1936: How May One Keep Friends?

The same qualities which help one make friends also aid in keeping them. Oversensitiveness, shyness, jealousy, gossiping, being too critical, and wanting one’s way are faults to avoid.

Jealousy destroys friendship. Jealousy sometimes breaks up friendships. Almost everyone is capable of jealousy. Do you think you could get hold of yourself, be so honest that you could look ‘the green-eyed monster’ in the face, recognize it for what it is, and tell it to leave? Sadly enough, it is not unusual for girls to be jealous of and ‘catty’ to other girls. Be generous. Be big enough to enjoy the good fortune of others ~ their clothes, good looks, social engagements, parties, school honors and other achievements. Incidentally, if you are worth-while and deserving, popularity and success will not turn your head. You will find time to remember and see old friends.

Do not gossip or pry into others’ affairs. A second way to destroy friendship is to be too inquisitive. Interest in others is natural and welcome if there is respect for the right of privacy. There is one type of girl who takes a proprietary attitude with her friends. She keeps track of everything they do and asks them direct questions about every detail of their lives. She may love them, but has a poor way of showing it ~ one which anybody may resent.

A direct personal question is in very poor taste. Only an ill-bred person asks personal questions.

Gossip is closely akin to prying into others’ affairs. Gossip, whether friendly or malicious, by intention or by accident, is a vice. It is a habit which grows. The tendency to gossip is a thing to curb in oneself and check in others. . . .

The passing of an old friendship.What would you do if you found that a friendship did not mean as much to you as it once had? Should you let old friends go? Would you cling to the friendship because of loyalty? Would this be false friendship if you’re heart were gone from it?

In the book Jeremy at Crale, Hugh Walpole has answered these questions. Jeremy’s best friend has been Jumbo. But the time has come when he finds he cannot talk to him any more. Jeremy has changed; Jumbo has not. Jeremy feels disloyal and self-critical. He has a very understanding uncle to whom he goes for advice. Uncle Samuel says that he can do nothing, and continues, ‘Friendship’s like that. You aren’t friends with someone because you want to be. You can’t have a friend unless you can feed one another. Once or twice in your life you’ll meet someone and you’ll go on with them for the rest of your days. Finer and finer it is. But for the rest ~ those you meet on a journey ~ be grateful for the times you’ve had together, let it go when it’s over, bear no grudges, above all, don’t prolong it falsely. No one knows at the start what a friendship’s going to be. Don’t hang on and be false. Life’s a movement or ought to be. Don’t be sentimental over reminiscences and don’t charge others with falseness. On the whole, you’ll be treated as you deserve.’

Source: Van Duzer, Adelaide Laura, et. al. Everyday Living for Girls. Chicago: J. B. Lippincott Company,1936.
~ pp. 380-82 ~

Everyone Wants To Be Liked

Monday, August 30th, 2010

It is a fine thing to have a sense of humorI apologize for the lag time since my last selection. The delay was due to a much-needed trip out to the woods, where I was nowhere near a computer. I hope you are not angry with me! I just want to be liked! Don’t you? Yes, I thought so. So let’s read a bit from Everyday Living for Girls: A Textbook in Personal Regimen in order to help us achieve this goal, shall we?

1936: Everyone Wants To Be Liked

Definitions of personality and character would often lead us to suppose they are one and the same. Perhaps the difference between character and personality can be most simply stated as follows: Character is one’s true moral worth, and personality its outward expression as seen by others. It is, then, quite possible to be of an upright and moral character and yet have an unpleasant personality, and vice versa. . . . Have you ever thought that we may admire our friends because they are good-looking and respect them because they are clever, but that we love them because they are pleasant and easy to get along with? Probably no one thing contributes more to popularity than being good natured. Have you tried it?

Traits others like in us. What, then, are some of the things that we should do or refrain from doing in order to be liked? In the first place, no one likes affectation on the part of others. “Be yourself,” has become a slang expression, but it is still good advice. The girl who tries to act and look more sophisticated or accomplished than she is, is making a great mistake.

People do not like interference. Do not be inquisitive about other people’s affairs, and certainly never take part in other people’s quarrels.

Do not argue. Hardly anyone can keep from getting angry or offensive when arguing, and as was said in the beginning, good nature is a great asset.

Be a good listener. Do not carry on a monologue, but give others a chance to talk. Never make fun of others. If you do, your listeners will never trust you not to make fun of them when their backs are turned.

Do not be moody. To say of one that she is always the same is a great compliment.

Sociability and friendliness are very useful and endearing traits. Friends are indispensable, and acquaintances are always possible friends.

It is a fine thing to have a sense of humor. Indeed, it is almost always listed as a necessary element in popularity. Cultivate it, if possible.

Learn what good taste is and practive it in dress, manners, and all social relations.

No one is better liked as a companion than one who is self-possessed, well poised, and who knows how to behave correctly under all circumstances.

Be interesting. Learn to talk about things rather than about people.

Do not be too sensitive. Think about other people, not about yourself and what kind of an impression you are making, and do not take offense quickly.

Do not be too critical of what others do or say, of entertainments, or conditions. There is no surer way of making others shun your companionship and of spoiling your own good times.

Always make acknowledgment of everything done for you, no matter how slight it may be. Do not look upon an act of courtesy or a favor as your just due.

These are only a few of the ways in which one may gain deserved popularity. See how many others you can add to the list.

Source: Van Duzer, Adelaide Laura, et. al. Everyday Living for Girls. Chicago: J. B. Lippincott Company,1936.
~ pp. 356-57 ~

The Smart and Tidy Maid

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

chest out and stomach inLita Prince and Harriet Bonnet wrote Maidcraft: A Guide for the One-Maid Household for the “mistress” of the house. With sections on housework, table service, the laundry, and care of the children, the authors suggest that “you may want to hand it over to your maid to read ~ either some of it or all of it.” Those lucky, lucky maids.

1937: The Smart and Tidy Maid

A maid who is careless of her grooming around the house may often be made to realize how untidy she looks by a word or even a look from the mistress.

Here is a list of pointers that should be brought to the attention of any maid, if she is to look smart and tidy on all occasions:

1. She should bathe frequently ~ once a day, if possible. This will not only make her look fresher, but will be beneficial to her health.
2. It’s a good idea for her to use a deodorant, too, for in working anyone is likely to perspire.
3. She should not use perfume during working hours, for perfume and dust do not make a pleasing combination.
4. She should keep her teeth in good condition and use a mouth wash often.
5. She should not chew gum, especially when there are guests.
6. She should not smoke cigarettes around the house, even if she is permitted to smoke in her own room. Naturally she should smoke her own, not her employer’s cigarettes.
7. She should take care of her hands by using a hand lotion often. This is particularly important if she has her hands in water a great deal, for chapped, ugly hands do not look well when she is serving.
8. She should keep her nails immaculately clean and use a cuticle oil to keep her nails from becoming brittle and broken off.
9. She should not use bright-colored nail polish, at least during working hours.
10. She should wash and brush her hair often and keep it neatly dressed. It is advisable for her to wear a cap when cooking or dusting so as to keep odors and dust out of her hair, but certainly she should tie her hair back with a ribbon when she is cooking to keep any stray hairs out of her food.
11. She should stand up straight with her head up, chest out and stomach in. Not only will she look infinitely better, but she will feel more fit. Slouching will only tire her out.
12. She should wear good but comfortable shoes and, if she is on her feet much, she should have arch supports in her shoes. Run-down heels will throw her off balance and tire her out besides making her appear badly dressed. If white shoes are clean, they look best with white or light-colored uniforms, but they should never be worn with dark dresses. No maid should ever be permitted to shuffle around the house in bedroom slippers.
13. Rumpled, messy clothes, and stockings with runs in them or with seams zigzagging up the back of the leg look quite as bad around the house as they do on the street.
14. She may use some make-up, but she should remember that too much is worse than none at all.
15. Jewelry, especially jangling bracelets and earrings, should never be worn during working hours.

Source: Price, Lita and Harriet Bonnet. Maidcraft: A Guide for the One-Maid Household. Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1937.
~ pp. 25-27 ~

Mistress of Ceremonie

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

others like to be amusedTo make sure my guests have fun at my party this weekend, I’ve looked up a few tips ~ I am certainly not above giving myself some advice. This one is from Beatrice Pierce’s book titled The Young Hostess. Now if I could just get the boys to wear pirate costumes ~ I’d be all set.

1938: Mistress of Ceremonies

When your friends come to your house, whether it’s for a party or just to say hello, it is up to you to see that they have a good time. The first thing to consider is your crowd ~ their likes and dislikes as to entertainment. Some friends are glad of an opportunity to get together and talk. Others like to be amused. If your crowd likes talking, or gathering around the radio or victrola to listen to music or to dance, let well enough alone. Your role is easy. All you need to do is to encourage your guests to follow their inclinations.

Unfortunately, there are guests who do not seem to have any ideas or inclinations that they wish to follow. They do not care enough for conversation to consider it entertainment. They do not like to sit and listen to music, and they do not dance. Or perhaps there isn’t room enough for dancing. What to do with these difficult guests? Well, sometimes they just have to be taken by the hand and coaxed into having a good time. As hostess you must use ingenuity in thinking up the right games and amusements for them. You also have to use enthusiasm and vivacity to get guests in the right mood for entertainment. Once started, things usually go with vim and vigor. But often you have to put forth an effort to get your party happily under way.

In planning entertainment for guests, a good deal depends upon the time and place. Is your house large or small? It makes a difference whether you are giving a party in an apartment furnished with fragile antique furniture or in a roomy house or in a shack at the seashore. It also makes a difference whether you are giving a party in the afternoon for a few girls or a large party in the evening for both boys and girls. Then, too, you have to adapt your games to the kind of clothes you have asked your guests to wear. It would certainly be hard on a new party dress to go ducking for apples. On the other hand, it might be loads of fun for a guest who was dressed in a gypsy or pirate costume. Here is where a little judgement in making things harmonize will stand you in good stead.

Source: Pierce, Beatrice. The Young Hostess. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1938.
~ pp. 216-17 ~

Dance ~ Contrived by Evil Minds

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

this giddy whirl goes onNow I bring you a selection from A Virtuous Woman by Oscar Lowry, who recommends in his introduction that “mothers place this volume in the hands of their daughters early in life.” I’m sure daughters (and sons) everywhere would be thrilled to read this passage regarding dancing. Something concerns me, though; the author sounds a bit too knowledgeable on the subject. Don’t you suspect that dear, virtuous Mr. Lowry has done just a smidgen of dancing in his time? I do.

1938: Dance ~ Contrived by Evil Minds

Perfect dancing, as all dancers will readily admit, demands perfect movement, that is, the two bodies must move as one. To this end the bodies are locked together by one arm placed about a woman’s waist as they stand facing each other, with one of the woman’s hands resting upon the man’s shoulder, her heaving breasts are against his while her right hand is held in his left, he places his foot between hers. To begin with, this position may be effected by the bodies being kept somewhat apart, but almost irresistibly the bodies come more and more in contact, mingling the sexes in such closeness of personal approach and contact as, outside the dance, is no where tolerated in respectable society. To this must be added, the young woman is improperly attired with a sleeveless, low-necked dress exposing more or less of her secondary sexual charms, her breasts. From this description any reasonable person can easily see that the modern dance has been contrived by evil minds for but one purpose, and that to awaken and arouse the sex nature, and to give human passions leave to disport themselves unreproved by conscience or reason, almost at will.

Now let us consider for a moment what this means. It is evening, the hour is late, the room is crowded, there is the intoxication of sensual jazz music which is intended to arouse the baser passions of both men and women. The women are dressed so as to set off their sexual charms, they are exposed to hot and poisoned air, perspiring bodies in close embrace, the personal electricity passing between the clasped hands, the hot breath of the man blown upon the exposed chest and arms of the woman, and still hour after hour this giddy whirl goes on until the dancers have covered a distance of from twelve to fifteen miles in an average evening’s dance. Oh, the horrors of it all!

Source: Lowry, Oscar. A Virtuous Woman: Sex Life in Relation to the Christian Life. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1938.
~ pp. 62-63 ~

A Map To Your Door

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

turn right at the red barnWelcome, guests, to Miss Abigail’s new home! I hope my directions were clear enough for you to get here from the old site. I tried to map it out without the help of my father or brother, but maybe that wasn’t so wise, according to this short blurb from Beatrice Pierce’s book entitled The Young Hostess.

1938: A Map To Your Door

Guests who come by automobile, especially to a house in the country, often need detailed information such as, “Turn right at the red barn, and left at the white church.” It is surprising how few hostesses are able to provide accurate instructions of this kind. If you are a hazy-minded girl, and if your house is hard to find, get your father or your brother, or someone who is clear on the subject, to draw a map or write out the directions for you.

Provided it is made accurately, a map is an extremely convenient thing to have. To be valuable it should be drawn with regard for the points of the compass, and the mileage between turns should be indicated. After a map has been drawn, copies may be reproduced at a small cost.

For those who live in the same country house every summer, endless writing and explaining are saved by having a supply of maps which the various members of the family enclose with their invitations.

Source: Pierce, Beatrice. The Young Hostess. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1938.
~ p. 212 ~

Miss Abigail’s (timeless) Holiday Gift Ideas, Vol. VI

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Happy Holidays, everybody! Welcome to the sixth edition of Miss Abigail’s Gift Ideas. Having trouble finding that perfect present? Never fear, I’m here to help with your last minute shopping. There’s something here for the whole family! Now onto the presentation:

What mother doesn’t love a new vacuum? I’m sure the local department store is having a sale on this exciting new model. Run out and grab one today. (1965)

mom's vacuum

Little Johnny needs a new mallet so he can learn how to properly fix his bike. Make sure you get him the only the finest, and be sure to teach him how to use it safely. (1914)

Daddy always loves gadgets for the outdoors. How about these ideas for when he takes a turn at cooking? That adjustable grill doesn’t look too hard to assemble ~ I’m sure you can build it by Christmas. (1939)

Perhaps you can convince grandpa to assemble this exciting swing for little sister in the basement or attic. Won’t she be delighted! I know I would be. (1896)

Uh oh, you forget to get your baby sister Adelaide something! You better get shopping ~ and fast! I don’t think she’ll care what it is. (1937)

Miss Abigail’s (timeless) Holiday Gift Ideas, Vol. IV

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Trying to figure out what to get that hard-to-shop-for relative? Welcome to the fourth annual collection of gift ideas. This year, more than ever, many are seeking comfort in books, but you’re probably stumped about what your family might like to read. Miss Abigail, nonfiction book wiz, is here to help.

The advertisements following were found in the back of some of my old books.




“Westland’s Tocology for Mothers”: “Indispensible to every wife and mother,” reads the ad, and I’d have to agree. What mom wouldn’t love to read about all of this fun stuff? [ca. 1908]

“Daddy Must Leave Tobacco on Shelf”:Dad, please give the gift of your life and health to your children. Order this pamphlet today and stop smoking before your daughter starts speaking like this! [ca. 1920]

“A Book About the Pet Canary” would be fitting for just about any family member. Junior might not be ready for the responsibility of a puppy, but might enjoy raising a bird, or granny may find comfort in the company of a canary while grandad is off playing golf at the country club. [ca. 1908]

“Dr. Foote’s White Lily Sanitary Tampons”: This one isn’t a book, but what teenage girl doesn’t want tampons for Christmas? Makes a perfect stocking stuffer. [ca. 1908]

“Better than Beauty”: OK, that last one wasn’t fair. Here’s a “blessing” that sis will really appreciate. [1933]

“Hair Culture”: Last but not least, dad or grandpa will certainly enjoy this exciting read. The caption for the illustration above reads “You would not think to look at Mr. Macfadden’s luxuriant growth of hair that at one time he was in grave danger of becoming bald.” Is your father in danger? Get this book at once! [1923]