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 ‘1960s’

Be Second Sexiest at Parties

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Many of you are no doubt heading out to New Year’s Eve parties this evening, celebrating with a loved one or perhaps going solo, in the hopes of meeting someone special to welcome 2011 with. Ellen Peck, author of the fabulous How to Get a Teen-age Boy and What to do With Him When You Get Him (1969), has a whole chapter devoted to party going, which is so much better than party giving, where you have to devote all your energy to making sure others are having fun.  “When you go to a party,” she writes, “you have no responsibilities to anybody but you. Just see that you have a good time.”

Her chapter outlines how to find out about parties, how to get invited to them, what time to arrive, who to arrive with (if you don’t have a date already), and more. Since this book is all about “getting” a teen-age boy there’s quite a bit about flirting (if you’ve seen the play or ready my book or this site, you’ve heard some of this already). Conversation starters are covered, of course, because “party talk is planned,” but she also says that “you should also be planning your appearance.” Read on:


Wear pretty much what the other girls are wearing. If they’re wearing tunics, you wear a tunic. But look slightly sexier than most of the girls. Now hear this. This does not mean low, low necklines, long, long, lashes, body jewels, and beauty marks. This “sudden starlet” bit won’t work; you’ll just end up looking like you belong somewhere else. Don’t be the sexiest girl there.

But ~ can you manage to be the second sexiest?

Again, here’s where it helps to know what the other girls are wearing. If you know Irene is going to show up showing décolletage to the naval, you may cut your neckline down a bit. After all, if Kathy’s parties end in neck-nibbling and related indoor sports, you might want to show off a nibbleable neck before lights out.

Looking second sexiest gives you a couple of advantages. Especially over the girl who looks sexiest. That girl (Irene) is going to look slightly out of place. She’s going to make the boys feel slightly self-conscious about approaching her. Oh, they’re turned on by the way she looks, all right. But a guy looks at Irene and knows if he picks tonight to make-out with her, he’s going to go through a lot of ribbing all next week!

Also, do you know how all the other girls are going to feel toward Irene? Maybe hostile.

Do you think Kathy is going to think twice about asking so much competition over again? Maybe definitely.

So, better be second (or even third) than sexiest, as far as your appearance is concerned!


Miss Abigail’s (Timeless) Holiday Gift Ideas 2010

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Dear Readers: Today I resurrect my every-so-often holiday gift ideas post and bring to you some book titles that might tickle the fancy of people on your lists. If you aren’t done shopping yet, and need some help, perhaps these will do!

First up, we have a gift for the woman in your life. Although I thought this book might tell the “woman who hates to clean” that she should just hire a housekeeper and call it a day, it does assume that the wife, no matter how much she hates it, will be the one cleaning. Drat. Still, it offers “hundreds of ways to take the drudgery out of cleaning.” That’s sure to be appreciated by women and men (who are hopefully chipping in) alike.

Good Housekeeping's Miracle Cleaning Book (1955)

Next up, a gift for sis. Is she wanting to be on America’s Next Top Model, but doesn’t quite have the looks for it yet? She’s love this book, which was penned by Princess Luciana Pignatelli. The flap copy gives a hint to what are the secrets of a beautiful woman: “self-discipline, private bedrooms, work, cosmetic surgery, facial exercises, rest, repose, having late babies, the right kinds of husbands and loves, yoga, isometrics, and walking.” Your sister might also benefit from those sunglasses. Ooh, baby!

The Beautiful People's Beauty Book, by Princess Luciana Pignatelli (1970)

Speaking of isometrics, this next book would be perfect for anyone on your list. I mean, who wouldn’t love exercise that requires no movement at all?

Vic Obeck's How to Exercise Without Moving A Muscle (1964)

Dad might really enjoy this “Greeting Card Book,” which can be sent directly via the mail.  You could even send it anonymously so he has no idea that you doubt his handyman skills!

The Unhandy Handyman's Book (1966)

Young, frantic parents in your life might really appreciate this helpful guide from the Department of Defense. Who wouldn’t have a better grasp on how to raise preschoolers?

Department of Defense, Caring for Preschoolers (1982)

Here’s another for just about anyone on your list, from the business executive to those starting out in life  ~ this book has 871 pages full of etiquette and more, more, more. I was going to list all of the topics but I figured it was easier to just share the title page (click on it to see a larger size).

The cover of The National Encyclopedia of Business and Social Forms... (1881)

Title page of the National Encyclopedia...

This final entry is for the car lovers in your family, particularly those with VWs. It’s not an advice book, but I found it on my shelves while poking around and it seemed like the perfect gift for both “Volks folks and Normal People.” Here’s a few to whet your appetite: “There was the Dallas oilman who paid for his new Cadillac with a $10,000 bill and took his change in Volkswagens” HA! Or how about: “Here’s a tip to help you quickly dry your VW after a washing. Pick it up by the windshield wiper and it will shake itself dry.” Hooboy, what a riot! Here’s one more: “Give a man with a big car an inch and he’ll take a mile, but give a VW owner a foot and he’ll park his car.”

The Jokeswagen Book (1966)

Well, that’s it for another year. I hope these ideas help with your last-minute gift shopping, and that you all have a wonderful holiday!

The Hullabaloo Discothèque Dance Book: Table Talk

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

The Hullabaloo TV series, which was on air before I was born, published a handy book in 1966 titled the Hullabaloo Discothèque Dance Book. The book’s introduction leads its readers into the exciting world of this newfangled, European craze that had recently hit the USA: Discothèque Dances. Described as “the term to describe all the places, chic and otherwise, where you can dance to recorded music.” The book is filled with instructions and photos to help guide the reader learn such popular dances such as “The Frug,” “The Hitchhiker,” “The Swim,” “The Monkey,” “The Boston Monkey,” The Slop,” The Buzzard,” and more.

I thought you might be a little tired from all that pie and turkey eating this week, and not up to too many crazy antics this weekend (like learning the “The Jerk,” so I bring you one that you can do while sitting around the table or on the couch. “Table Talk” is a bit complicated, but I think you’ll pick it up quickly. Enjoy! (Sorry I cut off the 13 & 14 numbers when scanning!)

Table Talk p1Table Talk p2Table Talk p3Table Talk p4Table Talk p5

It’s Fun to Be a [Popular] Girl

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

It's Fun to Be a GirlAlong with the rest of the nation, I’ve been watching and enjoying Glee. And as a card-carrying lifetime member of the band geek club, it’s been bringing up all those lovely memories of the popular kids vs. the geeks “battles” that went on ~ most of you probably had some experience, whatever side you were on.

It’s been on my mind particularly as my 25th high school reunion approaches (I’ll be missing the festivities back in fun-city Punta Gorda, Florida, since its the same weekend of the opening of the play). Here’e some advice from Ruth Vaughn’s It’s Fun to Be a Girl, published in 1961, which alludes to the fact that musicians and artists can be popular too. Goody!


Popularity begins, not with making yourself important, but by becoming concerned and interested in other people. The result will bring happiness to you and others.

A group of girls were talking at a summer camp. One said, “It is so hard to maintain high standards and be popular.” Another girl spoke up, citing an incident where a girl with high ideals was crowned football queen.

“Sure,” the first girl remarked, “but she can play the flute, sing like a bird, and paint pictures. She can do almost anything. Most of us are not that talented!”

To be popular doesn’t require many talents. Everyone possesses at least one talent. The most important thing to do is to cultivate it. You play the piano? Develop it to the greatest popular capacity. You are pretty good with a tennis racket? Become very good. If your outstanding attribute is simply making friends and being a loyal, warm person ~ work at that. Being vastly talented is nice, but it certainly is not a requisite in this business of being popular.

Don’t try to be the best at everything. If Gail gives a reading which is a scream, don’t get up and try to compete with her or try to throw cold water on her praise. Add your part by getting a good seat to watch and applauding with all your heart for her talent. If Cheryl sings with such a radiance and warmth that it fills the entire room, don’t make a spectacle of yourself by trying to sing as well. Face yourself honestly and accept your own limitations. But develop and polish the talents which you possess.

Being the kind of girl who is popular takes self-discipline. The girl who has such a gay, appealing personality was not born that way. She learned to discipline herself pretty sternly because she knows the great rewards it brings.


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!

Speech Now, or Forever Hold Your Peace

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

inspires respect and confidenceQ Dear Miss Abigail:

My boss has asked me to give a presentation at a conference, but I’m so nervous and don’t think anyone will listen to what I have to say. Do you have tips that will help me get through this?


A Dear Olivia:

How fitting this question is, as I sit in my home in Washington, D.C., listening to the helicopters fly by as they circle the Capitol building a few blocks away, where our President is at this moment giving that state of the union address thingie. I’m sure he doesn’t need any advice about giving a speech, but hopefully this will help calm your fears. It’s from a little book titled The First Book of How to Give a Speech (1963) by David Guy Powers.

1963: Good Posture Gives Poise

What is the first thing you notice about a person? Before he begins to speak you are apt to notice his appearance. If he stands tall, carries himself with dignity, and appears at ease, he usually inspires respect and confidence. The actor who wishes to impersonate a leader carries himself that way. He makes the audience realize the character even before he speaks his lines. If you wish to be a good speaker you must learn to convey meaning with posture as well as with words. Every good actor you see on television knows the value of looking the part.

Train yourself to express your meaning by effective gestures. Remember, ‘Actions speak louder than words.’ Your actions and your words should give one message to the audience. . . . A company advertising shoe polish once used this slogan, ‘Look at your shoes! Others do.’ A similar rule applies to your speech. ‘Look at your posture. Others do.’ Therefore, you should study to make your appearance say the same thing as your words.

Source: Powers, David Guy. The First Book of How to Make a Speech. New York: Frankin Watts, 1963.
~ pp. 24-25 ~

Sing, Sing a Song

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

gather an audienceQ Dear Miss Abigail:

How do I become a singer? How do I get a good record company and get my tape to the company? I have a good voice, but I can’t think of songs and my tape recorder doesn’t work well.


A Dear Chip:

Wow. Chip, honey, you’ve got quite a journey ahead of you if you’re going to make it big. To help you out here, I’ve turned to actor Debbie Reynolds, who wrote her debut advice book for teens If I Knew Then in 1962 with a little help from author Bob Thomas. Perhaps you should ask your parents for a new tape recorder (perhaps a digital one) for Christmas, and then start booking those shows.

1962: How Do You Get Started in Show Business?

You listen and you learn and you try.

You never know how good you are until you try. Your own town may seem like an entertainment wasteland, but you might be surprised at the opportunities it affords.

You might start with neighborhood shows, as I did. You can appear at school plays, charity bazaars, veterans’ hospitals, old folks’ homes, orphanages, fires ~ anywhere you can gather an audience. There are small night clubs and summer theaters and pageants and radio shows.

Listen to the audience or the lack of it, to the rapt silence of a darkened hall or a restless crowd. Those are the sounds that will tell you whether to quit or keep going. Listen to your teachers and parents, too. They can inspire you. They may also do you the service of telling you if you lack the gift of talent.

Develop your skills ~ all kinds. A person who can sing and dance as well as handle acting roles has a better chance of finding jobs. Learn instruments, too, especially the piano.

Source: Reynolds, Debbie. If I Knew Then. New York: Bernard Geis Associates, 1962.
~ p. 125 ~

Is Andy Interested In Me? or, Remembering Names

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

oh, yes, you can, if you want toQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Is Andy interested in me?


A Dear Evelyn:

I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify something for you and quite a few others who have recently asked me such questions as “Will I marry John Rachal?” and “Will I go out with Jonathan Bonin?” and “Am I wasting my time with the relationship I have at the moment?” Well, here it is ~ the one, the only, the OFFICIAL STATEMENT:

Miss Abigail’s Time Warp Advice is in no way whatsoever connected to the Psychic Hotline.

Whew. Now that we are all clear on that, you will understand why I cannot answer your question. So instead, I will use this space to share some totally irrelevant advice regarding the fine art of remembering names. I wonder, Emily, are you also troubled with this problem?

1961: Remembering Names

There is one thing that makes a hit with everybody. That is, remembering names. You may have heard people bragging ~ though they should have been apologizing for it instead of bragging about it ~ ‘I always remember faces, but I can’t seem to remember names.’

Oh, yes, you can, if you want to, and are willing to try hard enough. The late president Franklin D. Roosevelt was an outstanding example of someone who could call people by their first names after not having seen them for a long time. Nothing pleases a person quite so much as having his name remembered.

How can you gain this ability to make friends by remembering names? There are certain tricks and ways for developing this, but you can develop ways of your own. If you are determined to do it and willing to make the effort ~ and it does involve considerable effort ~ the battle is half won.

You can start this good habit better at your age than if you wait until later. Nothing will give you a better and bigger boost up the ladder of popularity, and the success that goes with it.

Source: Richardson, Frank Howard. For Young Adults Only: The Doctor Discusses Your Personal Problems. Atlanta, Ga.: Tupper and Love, 1961.
~ pp. 114-15 ~

Brothers and Sisters

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

little folks admire youMy older brother Chris celebrates a birthday this week. Most of the advice I found about brothers and sisters was about sibling rivalry, which we don’t have at all (except that my website is so much better than his, don’t you think?) but I did track down this little blurb about trying getting along with younger and older siblings. It’s from Florence Reiff’s book Step in Home Living. Coincidentally, this was a few years after Chris was born, and a year before he kicked the mail carrier, for some odd reason, the day I was brought home from the hospital. Happy Birthday, Chris!

1966: Brothers and Sisters

Getting along with younger brothers and sisters is sometimes a problem for teenagers. Have you ever thought about why this is so? When a three-year-old opens a drawer and takes something that belongs to you, or when he writes in your notebook, he does not do it to be mean. He does it because he admires you and wants to be grown-up, too! When an eight-year-old follows you wherever you go, he does so because he wants to be included in your activities. Younger children want attention and like to feel that they are a part of the family. They look up to the ones who are older; that is why the way you act toward them is important. When you understand this, it is easier for you to be patient with them. You will enjoy them much more.

Now, look at another problem that might arise in the family. How do you get along with your older brothers and sisters? Do you ever borrow a sweater without asking? Do you want to stay up as late as your older brother? Do you get angry if you are not allowed to go out as often as he does? If you answer ‘Yes’ to the last three questions, you can see that you want the same privileges as older family members because you think it is better to be a grown-up. In a way, you are acting almost the same way as your younger brothers and sisters!

How do we solve problems like this? We have talked about the importance of understanding. When you understand that little folks admire you and want your attention, you might plan to do some special thing with them each day. It might be that you could spare a few minutes to play a game, tell a story, or just talk about what the child has been doing. In the case of older brothers and sisters, you also need to practice understanding by realizing that as you grow older you will gain more privileges. You will also lose the fun of not having so much responsibility! You can help the problem by cooperating with older family members rather than annoying them.

Learning to get along with the people in your family helps you to get along with the other people in your life. Getting along with others helps to make you happy.

Source: Reiff, Florence M. Steps in Home Living. Peoria, Ill.: Chas. A. Bennett Co., 1966.
~ pp. 36-38 ~

Washing the Dishes

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

the large, greasy utensilsThis week’s selection is from a high school home economics book, but I don’t think I had to wait that long to learn how to do this fairly common childhood chore. My mom had me scraping and scrubbing dishes at a much younger age! For those of you still a bit clueless about this particular household task, here are some tips from How You Plan and Prepare Meals. It was written by experts Byrta Carson and MaRue Carson Ramee.

1962: Washing the Dishes

Preparing to Wash Dishes

Scrape and rinse the dishes that are especially soiled. Soak in cold water dishes that contained cereal, egg, or flour mixtures. Soak in hot water greasy dishes and those that were used for sugar mixtures.

If the pans or skillets are badly burned, fill them with water. Add a little baking soda, and boil them until clean.

Stack the dishes by putting similar things together. Place the glasses next to the sink since they should be washed first. Place the silverware next and then the china. Pots, pans, and other utensils should be last. Smaller and least-soiled cooking utensils should be placed so that they will be washed before the large, greasy utensils.

Washing the Dishes

1. Fill the sink or the dishpan half full with hot soapy water. The amount of soap or detergent that you should use depends upon the hardness of the water.

2. Put only a few dishes into the sink or the dishpan at one time.

3. Hold each dish in your left hand and the sponge or the dishcloth in your right hand as you wash dishes.

4. Rinse the dishes with plenty of very hot water. Glasses, cups, jars, and bottles should be rinsed inside and out. Plates, saucers, and so on, should be rinsed on both sides.

5. Place the dishes in the dish drainer at an angle at which they will drain best. For example, turn glasses and cups upside down after they have been scalded. Stand plates, saucers, and so on, at almost a right angle.

6. Dry the dishes with a clean dish towel, and put them in their proper places.

7. Hang up the dish towel neatly when you finish drying the dishes.

8. Pour the dishwater through a sink strainer unless you have a garbage disposal. Otherwise you may clog the sink.

9. Use soapy water to clean the sink, rubbing it hard. If the sink is especially dirty, use soda or a fine scouring powder. Use a bleach to remove stains.

10. Clean the table and the cabinet tops thoroughly, giving special attention to the edge of the table. Any food left on the table or in cracks is apt to attract insects.

Source: Carson, Byrta, and MaRue Carson Ramee. How You Plan and Prepare Meals. St. Louis, Mo.: Webster Division, McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1962.
~ pp. 402-403 ~