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 ‘courtesy’

The Write Stuff

Monday, August 30th, 2010

give thoughtful considerationQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I have a girlfriend who lives in another country, but she hasn’t written me like she said she would. What should I do?


A Dear John:

Uh, oh. Her actions do not appear to be a good sign, according to the following advice from Warren D. Bowman’s Home Builders of Tomorrow. Although this section appears to be written for girls, I think it could come in handy for just about everyone, particularly in this age of hurried email messages. If only your girlfriend would listen to our dear friend Mr. Bowman!

1938: Courtesy in Correspondence

There is also a type of courtesy that should be manifested in correspondence. A young lady became disgusted during her correpondence with a young man. She said that he never gave any consideration to her letter when replying and ignored ideas she had expressed and questions she had asked. This young man had never learned the courtesy of correspondence, which demands a mutual exchange of ideas and full consideration of any point mentioned by the other in the last letter. Correspondence can be used as a means of testing the courtesy, thinking, modes of expression, sportsmanship, and often the philosophy of life of the other. Can he write an interesting letter? Does he express his ideas in a pleasing manner? The kind of letter a person writes may serve somewhat as a test of his intelligence and resourcefulness. It is wise to refrain from writing letters that are too sentimental, as they may embarrass one later in life. Young people could well afford to give thoughtful consideration to their correspondence when part of their courtship is carried on this way.

Source: Bowman, Warren D. Home Builders of Tomorrow. Elgin, Ill.: The Elgin Press, 1938.
~ pp. 60-61 ~

That’s What Friends Are For

Monday, August 30th, 2010

oo one resents being correctedQ Dear Miss Abigail:

My best friend is acting really strange. She started hanging out with an old friend who always manages to get her in to trouble. I am really worried about her. Could you please help me find a way to tell her how I feel about her new old friend without hurting her feelings?


A Dear Sunshine:

Let the strength of friendship swing into action! Time to tell your pal to stay out of trouble. I suppose this advice from The New Book of Etiquette isn’t terribly new anymore, since Lillian Eichler wrote it way back when. But I think still holds true, and should at least provide some good reading to you all. What better topic than friendship?

1924: The Ethics of Friendship

It is not enough to make friends; you must know how to keep them. When you make a new friend whose friendship you value and wish to keep, learn his idiosyncracies and respect them. Learn his little peculiarities of manner and bear with him. Force yourself to be conscious always of the fact that while he has faults of which you are aware, you have faults of which he is aware. The ideal friend overlooks these little things and looks only for the big.

Doubt and suspicion are fatal to friendship. A friend worth having is a friend worth trusting. In time of doubt there should be a frank explanation. A true friend will not listen to criticism from others regarding his friend; will never gossip about him; will protect him from slander; will refuse to hear or believe evil of him.

There should be absolute sincerity in friendship. If your friend has done something or said something of which you disapprove, go to him and talk to him about the matter. You are false to your friendship if you talk to others about it.

If you want to correct a friend for some mistake he has made, do so with all the grace and tact you would use in correcting a stranger. No one resents being corrected. It is the manner of the person who makes the correction that is usually resented. Your friend is certainly entitled to as much consideration as you show your acquaintances.

Too many of us feel that we can take liberties with our friends that we would not dare to take with strangers. Handle your friend’s book as carefully as you would the book of a new acquaintance, more carefully than you would handle your own. Do not feel that because it is with your friend that you have an engagement that you can be half an hour late. Real friendship is founded on courtesy, kindness, and understanding.

Source: Eichler, Lillian. The New Book of Etiquette. Garden City, N.Y.: Garden City Publishing Co., 1924.
~pp. 74-75 ~

Same-Sex Etiquette: The Same?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

mary, when was the last time you thanked your date?Q Dear Miss Abigail:

One of the difficulties of same-sex relationships is figuring out the etiquette of dating. Do I open the door or does she? Do I offer to pay half the check, even if she has asked me out to dinner? Who decides when it is time for the end of the evening smooch? I know in this era everyone seems to be confused about gender roles, but if you could give me some advice to help make my dates a little smoother, I would be extremely appreciative.

Shelly, a Sister

A Dear Sister:

Unfortunately, the majority of my books (ok, maybe ALL of my books) do not discuss same-sex relationships in a positive light. But Miss Abigail does not discriminate, and feels that dating advice for boy-girl relationships should work equally as well for girl-girl or boy-boy relationships.

So put your imagination caps on and let’s all pretend that the references to “boy,” “he,” “him,” and “his” in the following paragraphs are actually “girl,” “she,” “her” and “hers.” Oh, and don’t forget to ignore the comment claiming that clinging “too closely to members of your own sex” is a bad idea.

If you can do all of that and not lose your mind, then I think you’re ready for same-sex dating!

1963: Is It Wrong to Kiss a Boy on the First Date?

There is nothing wrong about a brief, affectionate goodnight kiss which will not arouse passion. Do not feel, however, that he won’t ask you out again unless you kiss him the first night or that you must repay him for the coke and hamburger he bought you. This is too high a price to pay, even if you had a large coke.

When You Approach a Door with Another Person

Stand aside and indicate by word or gesture that you would like her to go first. Should it entail less effort for you to go first (perhaps to open the door or to turn on a light switch), excuse yourself and precede. Your reason for such an action should be quite obvious to her.

Source: Culkin, Anne. Charm for Young Women. New York: Deus Books, 1963.
~ pp. 107, 127 ~

1967: Enjoying a Date

You and your date have mutually decided where you are going. You have taken care to be dressed appropriately. You have taken pains to be clean and neat. But even these precautions don’t insure success on a date. A date is wholly satisfying only when each person is considerate of the other. Dating is not fun if either of you:

~~ flirts conspicuously with others
~~ brags about previous conquests
~~ gossips about other dates
~~ clings too closely to members of your own sex
~~ avoids participation in the activities
~~ makes an issue over minor mishaps

Such behavior is essentially a lack of courtesy, and it can really keep you from enjoying each other. Often one or more of these breaches of etiquette can lose you a second date with your escort.

Courtesy Is More Than Manners

If may seem out of place to bring up courtesy here. You may feel that, of course, you are naturally courteous to all your acquaintances. But it might be a good idea to take stock of yourself to see just how courteous you really are. Mary, when was the last time you thanked your date as he held the door for you? John, when was the last time you helped your date out of the car instead of leaving her to fend for herself? Do you always remember to thank your date’s parents for “that wonderful dinner”? How often do you tell your date how much you enjoyed the evening? All of these things are just common courtesy. It seems, however, that the more we date a particular person, the more we take him or her for granted.

A fellow may say to himself, “Of course I enjoyed the date; she knows that.” Yet think how good it would make her feel if he told her once in a while. How much more her parents would think of him if the boy stuck his head in the door and told them how much he enjoyed this evening. Such courtesies go a long way toward making a boy a good date and a pleasant companion.

Source: Duvall, Evelyn Millis. The Art of Dating. New York: Association Press, 1967.
~ pp. 125-26 ~

The Blame Game

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

gracious living demands courtesyQ Dear Miss Abigail:

My wife and I have been noticing lately that very few people apologize anymore for their mistakes, especially vendors who have given poor service or who have delivered a defective product.

We think it is because people in general feel more beleaguered, and also because we live in such a litigious world that people have become naturally reticent to expose themselves to blame.

Any thoughts on this from the past?


A Dear Kevin:

Don’t sue me for saying this, but I blame it all on cell phones and SUVs.

No, no, no. It’s actually all my fault. I admit it. Obviously I’ve been answering too many kissing and dating questions, having assumed that people were pretty well set when it came to manners. I guess I was wrong, so I’ll make up for lost time this week. Here’s a little refresher for everyone out there, cell phone and SUV owners included. It’s the foreword to Manners Today, which was written by M. Thelma McAndless in 1943.

1943: Manners Today

Today . . . you and I, when destitute of courtesy, are conspicuous by our lack of kindness, tolerance, and understanding. For what is courtesy, really, but respect for the other person’s feelings, rights, beliefs? What are manners but the symbol of courtesy, the ‘do unto others’ attitude practiced in everyday life.

‘Do unto others’ . . . Perhaps pride, selfishness, and ambition have veiled the meaning. Perhaps it requires too much courage to be tolerant, too much intelligence to by sympathetic. Or perhaps it takes sacrifice and suffering to appreciate the simple phrase. Be as it may, gracious living demands courtesy.

In gracious living with its emphasis upon common sense, decency, good taste, kindliness, and justice lies the solution for international friendship and good will, for freedom and peace.

Source: McAndless, M. Thelma. Manners Today. Detroit: Briggs Publishing Company, 1943.
~ foreword ~

Be Courteous

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Hey kids, trying to figure out how to ask that cute girl out on a date? Follow this script and you’re sure to have success.she likes this invite

1967: Be Courteous

As you ask a girl for a date, you should indicate that you really want to go out with her. Courtesy is very important when asking, for if the girl finds you are not too courteous on the phone, she may assume you’re also discourteous on dates. A typical phone call for a date might be something like this:

MARY: Hello.

JIM: Hi, Mary, this is Jim Jones.

MARY: Hi, Jim, how are you?

JIM: Fine, thanks. Say, did you understand that problem in math today? I found it rather confusing.

MARY: I did too, but I eventually figured it out.

JIM: So did I. Say, Mary, Bob and Larry are taking Jean and Jane to the White Kar roller skating rink this Saturday ~ about seven o’clock. I’d like very much to take you, and we’d be home by ten. Would you like to go?

MARY: It sounds like fun! I’d love to go skating with you, Jim. I’ll expect you Saturday about seven.

JIM: Fine, see you then. Good-by, Mary.

MARY: Good-by.

This conversation was a great help to Mary. She knows everything she needs to know. Mary knows that Jim really wants to take her skating. She knows that she should dress casually, and that she should be ready by seven. She can tell her parents that she will be home by ten. This is the kind of invitation she likes to receive, because nothing is left up in the air. He told her who he was at once, instead of playing childish “Guess-who-this-is” games. No girl likes to admit that she doesn’t recognize a boy’s voice, yet many voices sound similar over the phone.

Mary’s parents like this approach too. They know just what they can expect without having to quiz Jim when he comes to pick her up for the date. They like to know where their daughter is going and with whom, but they hate to give a boy the third degree before a date ~ just as much as a boy hates to get it.

Jim also feels happy about this conversation. He knows that Mary will be dressed for skating, and that her parents understand about the arrangements. He can also tell his parents when to expect him home. Dates with arrangements agreed on ahead of time are more fun. You can look forward to your plans, rather than wonder what you’re going to do and whether you’ll be dressed appropriately.

Source: Duvall, Evelyn Millis. The Art of Dating. New York: Association Press, 1967.
~ pp. 76-77 ~