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 ‘communication’

Trying Your Hand in Writing

Monday, August 30th, 2010

make no apology for writing itWhile written with journalists in mind, this one seemed quite appropriate for this column as well. It’s from a book called Mother’s Guide and Daughter’s Friend, written by an “old practitioner” ~ otherwise unidentified ~ in 1890.

1890: Trying Your Hand in Writing

There will be no harm . . . in trying your hand at various kinds of writing. You do not know your own powers, may be, and if you do not place your hopes high you can not suffer great disappointment if you fail to please. In order to secure a reading for your manuscript use a little business sense in preparing it. If you have a reputation already established it matters not upon what you write nor how careless your penmanship, it will be published, otherwise it is necessary to observe the following rules:

Write as plainly as possible, on one side of the paper only; be very particular as to spelling, punctuation and capitalization; use good paper and black ink. If you send your communication to a strange paper enclose stamps sufficient for its return if not accepted. Make no apology for writing it, but in as few words as possible request an examination of the manuscript and its publication if acceptable, or its return if not.

If you have exhibited real literary power it will soon be discovered; if you have not the person who rejects your manuscript has done you a favor.

Source: “An Old Practitioner.” The Mother’s Guide and Daughter’s Friend. Indianapolis, Ind.: Normal Publishing House, 1890.
~ p. 507 ~

The Thin Line Between Like and Hate

Monday, July 12th, 2010

you started acting gigglyQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Could “I hate you” mean “I like you”? I ask this because there’s this guy and when we we’re playing and joking around he said “I hate you” and I said “I hate you” back. But when I said “I hate you,” I really wanted to say “I like you.” So like instead of him saying “I like you” he says “I hate you.” Is it like him saying “I like”? Is he just too shy to say “I like you”?


A Dear Alex:

Lucky for you, I have an amazing talent for interpreting just such a conversation. Closing my eyes, thinking, thinking ~ hey, I think he likes you!

Here’s some advice that might help explain why communicating with boys can be so difficult. It’s from Ellen Peck’s informative book titled How to Get a Teen-Age Boy and What to Do with Him When You Get Him, written in 1969. And before I go, please remember, Alex, that like is such a strong word. Please use it very carefully.

1969: What A Teen-Age Boy is Like

A teen-age boy is basically insecure.

It all started when you were twelve and he suddenly noticed that you were wearing a bra. That’s all the evidence he needed that you were definitely and completely female. But you left him feeling very unsure of himself as a male. Especially when you started acting giggly and embarrassed whenever he came around. (Yes, you did too.) And that nice, comfortable feeling he had with you ~ and with all girls when they looked pretty much like he did ~ changed. You became different then. Because of that bra, and the giggly behavior, he began to feel uncomfortable and tongue-tied around you. And maybe he isn’t quite over that feeling yet. Even though you’ve stopped the giggling. (Or, if you haven’t, do.)

Source: Peck, Ellen. How to Get a Teen-Age Boy and What To Do With Him When You Get Him. New York: Bernard Geis Associates, 1969.
~ pp. 54-55 ~

1941: If the Telephone Rings While You’re Away

Sunday, June 4th, 2006

I stumbled across this gem, which fall into the “my how things have changed” category of classic advice:

“If you wish to know if your telephone has rung during your absence, put a piece of paper and a piece of carbon paper between the clapper and the bell. A mark will be made on the paper if the bell has wrung.”


We have Janet D. Myers and her book 2002 Household Helps to thank for this. Originally published in 1933, my copy is from 1941. Although the first invention to record phone messages appeared as early as 1898, I suppose it’s doubtful that the 1935 version of the answering machine was in wide use when Ms. Myers reprinted her hints book.