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 ‘Christmas’

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!

Retro Christmas Cards

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
Gifts for mom, card from whatsbuzzin.com

"Gifts for Mom" card from whatsbuzzin.com

The prize for a contest I recently participated in was an assortment of Christmas cards from What’s Buzzin. While I sadly did not win (the competition was pretty tough!), it did make me fall in love with these cards, and I just placed an order for a bunch of them.

You might enjoy some of these, or these. I had a hard time choosing!

Gifts at Christmas-time

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

books for the book-loverPerfect for this time of year, this selection is dedicated to my dear, sweet mother, recently shocked by the words of a rather difficult relative:

“The squirrel nut dish is cute. It’s about the fifth one like it I’ve received. I think everyone in the family has hit me with that one once. We sold about 3 of them at the flea market last year. Yours is a little different . . . Keep sending stupid gifts if you want to. I’ll just send you a card next year. Ho Ho Ho.”

Let’s just say that Miss Abigail is not too pleased with this rude response. It sounds like a wonderful squirrel dish, don’t you think? I believe we can all learn a little (some more than others) from Lillian Eichler, author of the 1924 etiquette book that shared this advice.

1924: Gifts at Christmas-time

There are two distinct kinds of gifts ~ duty gifts and pleasure gifts. When a distant relative sends an invitation to his or her wedding, we send a gift because we feel that we are expected to do so. But when Christmas time draws near and there’s a hint of fir trees in the air, we think of a wonderful friend far away we’d like to see, or a jolly neighbour around the corner, or a business acquaintance who has been kind. And the gifts we pack tenderly with our own hands are ~ pleasure gifts.

For the woman who likes pretty things for her room, we suggest a handsome perfume bottle, and handkerchief box, a painted glass powder jar. Books for the book-lover, lamps for the home-lover, flowers and garden tools for the nature-lover! Make your gift suit the person for whom it is intended, add a bit of holly to carry the breath of the Christmas spirit, and send it so that it arrives on Christmas morning.

One writer on Christmas and Christmas gifts says:

‘The spirit of Christmas is better expressed by fifty inexpensive gifts that include people who might be forgotten than by doing one’s Christmas duty by means of a diamond bracelet and a set of expensive studs to a few people who could just as well afford to do without them. Besides this, the chief object of Christmas presents is to express the spirit of good will and hospitality which goes with the season, and there is more fun in the distribution of a greater number of little gifts than in the solemn presentation of two or three.’

Little travelling clocks, bridge sets, tennis rackets, gloves, fitted bags, books, collar boxes, work baskets, powder jars, boudoir dolls, writing sets ~ all these make ideal Christmas gifts. Make the gift suit the person for whom it is intended. A Mah Jongg set will not excite the little cousin who goes to business and has no time to learn the game; nor will a book of poetry please the flippant young débutante as much as a rather daring ‘best seller’ will.

‘For the children,’ says Eleanor O’Malley, ‘there is no substitute for Christmas toys, and little Willie will grow up with a hard corner in his heart for the person who greets him on Christmas morning with a smart new sailor suit or a strong pair of shoes. Though we may hazard a wild guess at the preferences of adults, we cannot possibly act on less than exact knowledge of the wishes of little ones. Even an expensive tricycle may prove a barren gift for a little fellow who was hoping against hope for a fifty-cent boat to sail on the lake, and the person who has not ingenuity enough to discover by means of letters to Santa Claus what is wanted in the nursery would better give up hope of trying to make a pleasant gift to the children.’

Source: Eichler, Lillian. The New Book of Etiquette. Garden City, N.Y.: Garden City Publishing Co., 1924.
~ pp. 78-80 ~

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. V

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Worried about finding a perfect gift for your hard-to-shop-for relative? Welcome to the fifth annual collection of Miss Abigail’s gift ideas. This year I offer a lovely selection of items that I’m sure those on your list will just adore. Trust me.

Dad sure loves to cook those burgers. How about this handy “portable electric range” to make him forget about the grill? (1970)

What baby doesn’t love a metal tub? You tell me! (1924)

When baking sheetcakes for your elderly relatives or neighbors, be sure to size the pan correctly, or trouble might ensue. (1965)

Sis always feels special in a new set of spectacles. Mom, Dad, why not treat her to a new look?(1952)

Hmm… what does mom want? A new set of dishes? A toaster oven? A vacuum cleaner? No, silly. She wants CASH! (1947)

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]

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

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Trying to figure out what to get that hard-to-shop-for relative? Welcome to the third annual collection of gift ideas, carefully selected from my collection of books. I do hope these ideas will help you in your quest for gift happiness. And now, onto the show!

Mother always loves a sharp knife. How about a new one this year? She’ll love you forever.

a knife for mom!

Is your pop always loosing his pipes? Here’s a handy gift that you can make yourself.

shelf for dad's pipes
shelf for dad's pipes

Any active boy would enjoy some sports equipment such as a bat or a ball. Just make sure that Johnnie knows about traffic safety before you send him out to play after Christmas dinner is done!

a ball for Johnnie

I hear rock n’ roll records are the hot new item for young ladies in the family. Don’t worry, mom ~ those crazy lyrics won’t corrupt her. She just wants to dance!

a record for sis

Grandpop will absolutely delight in a new bedpan. How could he not enjoy such a thoughtful gift?

a pan for granddad

Knife Source: Pace, Dorothy. The Complete Home Encyclopedia. New York: Caxton House, 1947.
~ p. 350 ~

Shelf and Pipe Rack Source: Humphrey, Henry, ed. Woman’s Home Companion Household Book.
Garden City, N.J.: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1948.
~ p. 528 ~

Sports Source: Evans, William A. Everyday Safety. Chicago: Lyons and Carnahan, 1952.
~ p. 110 ~

Records Source: Daggert, Nancy. Personal Beauty and Charm. New York: The Homemaker’s Encyclopedia, 1952.
~ p. 194 ~

Bedpan Source: Trott, Lona L. Red Cross Home Nursing. Philadelphia: Blakiston Company, 1942.
~ p. 320 ~

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

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

gift counselorWelcome to the second annual selection of gift ideas from Miss Abigail’s Time Warp Advice.

Burned out on shopping? This year I’m bringing you some ideas for gift certificates. I’m sure your loving family and friends will appreciate them more than a boring old tie or necklace.

The pictures are from my collection of books, but the captions are mine.

Happy Holidays!




I’m quite confident that just about any mother would delight in an afternoon appointment with a masseuse.

backrub for mommy

Adventure vacations are all the rage this year, so I hear. I bet dad would just love a trip to Africa!

adventure trip for dad

Kids have a ball when given the opportunity to dance. How about paying for a few lessons for your favorite teen and his or her date?

dancing for the teens

Hey Grandpa! Those grandkids sure are blowing a lot of money at the mall and on the Internet, aren’t they? It’s up to you to help those kids start saving. Now go out there and buy them some savings bonds. They’ll thank you for it later. I promise.

start saving now

And last but not least ~ if I were you I wouldn’t even consider Pokemon this year. Instead, treat your favorite little boy to a trip to the hair stylist instead. He’ll remember this gift ~ and you ~ forever.

getting a trim

Gift Counsellor Source: Woods, Marjorie Binford and Justine Feely. Off to the Right Start in Choosing Your Household Treasures. Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1955.
~ p. 12 ~

Massage Source: Reiff, Florence M. Steps in Home Living. Peoria, Ill.: Chas. A. Bennett Co., 1966
~ p. 99 ~

Africa Source: Source: Hopton, Ralph Y. and Anne Balliol. Bed Manners and Better Bed Manners. New York: Arden Book Company, 1934
~ p. 69 ~

Dance Source: McDermott, Irene E. and Florence Nicholas. Living For Young Moderns. Chicago: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1956.
~ p. 373 ~

Savings Source: Calvert, Maude Richman. First Course in Home Making. Atlanta, Ga.: Turner E. Smith Company,1928.
~ p. 252 ~

Haircut Source: Various. Every Woman’s Encyclopedia. London, England: n.p., ca. 1912.
~ p. 5235 ~

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

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Something a little different for the holidays ~ with the help of my books, I’ve come up with some fabulous gift ideas for the whole family. I don’t want you all to panic in these last hours of perfect-present hunting.

You’ll notice that the pictures are from the books (a variety of decades are represented here) but of course the captions are my own brilliant creation. Begin the tour with a quick click on the header below. Enjoy!

This lovely hat would be a welcome gift for mothers everywhere.

hat for mummy

If father is tired of carrying the family around, you might consider chipping in for a new car, a motorcycle, or perhaps a simple go cart ~ anything to ease his back pain.

put me down please

Any son who aspires to be like the talented Pat Boone would just love a musical instrument.

Pat serenades the ladies

If sis has bought into this recent “long pants” craze, she probably could use some new undies.

Forget Beanie Babies! Kids of all ages will love these alternative collectibles.

yum yum gimmee some

Here’s another idea for the young ones ~ boots!
With a little imagination, children can enjoy hours of fun.

ooooh! boots!

And lastly, a gift that can be enjoyed by all ~ the bed hammock.

this looks fun
Hat Source: Various. Every Woman’s Encyclopedia. London, England: n.p., ca. 1912.
~ p. 5261 ~
Man Carrying Child Source: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed: Health Hints for the Home. New York: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, 1898.
~ p. 23 ~
Guitar Source: Boone, Pat. ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty: Pat talks to Teenagers. Engelwood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1958.
~ p. 104 ~
Underwear Source: Tolman, Ruth. Charm and Poise for Getting Ahead. Bronx, NY: Milady Publishing Corporation, 1969.
~ p. 148 ~
Vegetable Doll Source: Matthews, Mary Lockwood. Elementary Home Economics. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company,1925.
~ p. 209 ~
Boots Source: Jefferis, Prof. B. G. The Household Guide, or Domestic Cyclopedia. Atlanta, Ga.: J. L. Nichols & Co., 1902.
~ p. 394 ~

Bed Hammock Source: Jefferis, Prof. B. G. The Household Guide, or Domestic Cyclopedia. Atlanta, Ga.: J. L. Nichols & Co., 1902.
~ p. 203 ~

All I Want for Xmas? Stop Nagging Me, Mother!

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

it is not easy for parentsQ Dear Miss Abigail:

My parents are coming to visit soon. Problem is, they drive me batty with their subtle nagging and criticism of how I run my house. I don’t know if I can survive Christmas. Why don’t they let me grow up?

Weary Daughter

A Dear Weary:

You would think that the joy of the holidays would stifle criticism, but in fact it seems to bring out the worst in everyone. Never fear, you are not alone. A message to your parents (and parents everywhere): give a very special gift to your adult child this year – a break! This one brought to you by W. Clark Ellzey (I found it in his How to Keep Romance In Your Marriage from 1954).

1954: Parents

All of us who have parents or who are parents should realize that parenthood is a function which should have an end. If the purpose of parenthood has not been completed it cannot end. . . . It is not easy for parents to stop being parents. They have been doing it for a long time by the time their child reaches adulthood, and it is difficult to bring parenthood to an end. Habits of thinking and feeling are well established and may have to be broken, or may be too strong to break. They should have been modified constantly throughout the years of childhood and youth of their children. Even that is not possible without some struggle and pain.

Source: Ellzey, W. Clark. How to Keep Romance in Your Marriage. New York: Association Press, 1954.
~ p. 65 ~