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 ‘1980s’

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!

Dear Lovey Dovey

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

seize a pencil or penQ Dear Miss Abigail:

My boyfriend is going away for a month and I was just wondering if you had any neat things that we could do to keep in touch. Plus, he’s sixteen and I’m thirteen so it’s really hard for me to trust him while he’s down there.


A Dear Anonymous:

I think I’ll avoid that trust issue, and instead focus on your quest to keep in touch. I’d like to explain the very ancient art of letter writing (probably before your time). I know, I know, it sounds scary and foreign, but before we had phones and email, people actually wrote letters to one another to share stories and experiences. Read on about this unusual concept in this quote by author Richard A Wells. His book Manners, Culture and Dresswas written in 1891.

1891: Letters and Letter Writing

Delightful is the art of letter-writing and one not hard to be acquired. To write a good letter doubtless requires some experience; to write one which is marked by originality and beauty requires, in some degree, a peculiar talent. But almost any person of ordinary intelligence can learn how to express himself or herself in an acceptable manner upon paper.

Good grammar, correct orthography, precise punctuation, will not make a clever communication, if the life and spirit of the expression are wanting; and life and spirit will make a good impressive epistle, even if the rhetorical and grammatical proprieties are largely wanting. Some of the most charming letters we ever saw or read were from children, who while they tortured grammar, yet reproduced themselves so completely as to make it appear that they really were chattering to us.

It is comparatively easy to compose. The secret of it is hidden in no mystery ~ it is simply toconverse on paper, instead of by word of mouth. To illustrate: if a person is before you, you narrate the incidents of a marriage, or a death, or of any circumstance of interest. It is an easy and an agreeable thing to tell the story. Now, if the person were so deaf as to not be able to hear a word, what would you do? Why, seize a pencil or pen and write out just what you would have told them by words. That very writing would be a delightful letter! It is this naturalness of expression and individuality of a letter which so delights the recipient.

Source: Wells, Richard A. Manners, Culture and Dress of the Best American Society. Springfield, Mass.: King, Richardson & Co., 1891.
~ pp. 169-70 ~