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 ‘dancing’

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

Fuzzy Math

Monday, August 30th, 2010

her moral energies are prostratedQ Dear Miss Abigail:

A man bought a number of eggs at three a dollar and as many eggs at four a dollar and sold them all at the rate of seven for two dollars, losing one dollar in the bargain. Find the number of eggs he bought.


A Dear Sreekumar:

I’m sorry ~ last week I was working and playing in New York City, and then when I got home Saturday night I went to a fabulous Halloween party. I really tried to concentrate on this problem of yours, but according to The Young Lady’s Aid to Usefulness and Happiness, which was written in 1838 by Jason Whitman, I can’t possibly answer your question. I need to rest for a few days, at least!

1838: Intellectual Improvement

In regard to amusements and recreations, I have sometimes thought that we overlooked or forgot the refreshment which may be derived from a mere change of pursuits. Consequently, we often fatigue and unfit ourselves for mental efforts, and destroy, for the time, our moral energies, by the exciting nature of our amusements. A young lady is often so engrossed in the anticipations of a ball or assembly, so absorbed in thought and feeling while preparing for it, and so highly excited amidst its scenes, that she is unfitted for any vigorous and profitable intellectual efforts for days after. And, then too, in the fatigue which follows, her moral energies are prostrated. Had this young lady simply danced at home, with her brothers and sisters, or with friends and neighbors who might be present, without any previous feverish anticipations, or any fatiguing preparations, it would have been a healthful and refreshing amusement. So if a young lady is fatigued with long continued study, or feels that she is in danger of neglecting to take sufficient exercise for her health, let her leave for a while her studies, and bestir herself in useful household labors, and she will find herself much refreshed.

Source: Whitman, Jason. The Young Lady’s Aid, to Usefulness and Happiness. Portland, Maine: S. H. Colesworthy, 1838.
~ pp. 189-90 ~

Mistress of Ceremonie

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

others like to be amusedTo make sure my guests have fun at my party this weekend, I’ve looked up a few tips ~ I am certainly not above giving myself some advice. This one is from Beatrice Pierce’s book titled The Young Hostess. Now if I could just get the boys to wear pirate costumes ~ I’d be all set.

1938: Mistress of Ceremonies

When your friends come to your house, whether it’s for a party or just to say hello, it is up to you to see that they have a good time. The first thing to consider is your crowd ~ their likes and dislikes as to entertainment. Some friends are glad of an opportunity to get together and talk. Others like to be amused. If your crowd likes talking, or gathering around the radio or victrola to listen to music or to dance, let well enough alone. Your role is easy. All you need to do is to encourage your guests to follow their inclinations.

Unfortunately, there are guests who do not seem to have any ideas or inclinations that they wish to follow. They do not care enough for conversation to consider it entertainment. They do not like to sit and listen to music, and they do not dance. Or perhaps there isn’t room enough for dancing. What to do with these difficult guests? Well, sometimes they just have to be taken by the hand and coaxed into having a good time. As hostess you must use ingenuity in thinking up the right games and amusements for them. You also have to use enthusiasm and vivacity to get guests in the right mood for entertainment. Once started, things usually go with vim and vigor. But often you have to put forth an effort to get your party happily under way.

In planning entertainment for guests, a good deal depends upon the time and place. Is your house large or small? It makes a difference whether you are giving a party in an apartment furnished with fragile antique furniture or in a roomy house or in a shack at the seashore. It also makes a difference whether you are giving a party in the afternoon for a few girls or a large party in the evening for both boys and girls. Then, too, you have to adapt your games to the kind of clothes you have asked your guests to wear. It would certainly be hard on a new party dress to go ducking for apples. On the other hand, it might be loads of fun for a guest who was dressed in a gypsy or pirate costume. Here is where a little judgement in making things harmonize will stand you in good stead.

Source: Pierce, Beatrice. The Young Hostess. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1938.
~ pp. 216-17 ~

Dance ~ Contrived by Evil Minds

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

this giddy whirl goes onNow I bring you a selection from A Virtuous Woman by Oscar Lowry, who recommends in his introduction that “mothers place this volume in the hands of their daughters early in life.” I’m sure daughters (and sons) everywhere would be thrilled to read this passage regarding dancing. Something concerns me, though; the author sounds a bit too knowledgeable on the subject. Don’t you suspect that dear, virtuous Mr. Lowry has done just a smidgen of dancing in his time? I do.

1938: Dance ~ Contrived by Evil Minds

Perfect dancing, as all dancers will readily admit, demands perfect movement, that is, the two bodies must move as one. To this end the bodies are locked together by one arm placed about a woman’s waist as they stand facing each other, with one of the woman’s hands resting upon the man’s shoulder, her heaving breasts are against his while her right hand is held in his left, he places his foot between hers. To begin with, this position may be effected by the bodies being kept somewhat apart, but almost irresistibly the bodies come more and more in contact, mingling the sexes in such closeness of personal approach and contact as, outside the dance, is no where tolerated in respectable society. To this must be added, the young woman is improperly attired with a sleeveless, low-necked dress exposing more or less of her secondary sexual charms, her breasts. From this description any reasonable person can easily see that the modern dance has been contrived by evil minds for but one purpose, and that to awaken and arouse the sex nature, and to give human passions leave to disport themselves unreproved by conscience or reason, almost at will.

Now let us consider for a moment what this means. It is evening, the hour is late, the room is crowded, there is the intoxication of sensual jazz music which is intended to arouse the baser passions of both men and women. The women are dressed so as to set off their sexual charms, they are exposed to hot and poisoned air, perspiring bodies in close embrace, the personal electricity passing between the clasped hands, the hot breath of the man blown upon the exposed chest and arms of the woman, and still hour after hour this giddy whirl goes on until the dancers have covered a distance of from twelve to fifteen miles in an average evening’s dance. Oh, the horrors of it all!

Source: Lowry, Oscar. A Virtuous Woman: Sex Life in Relation to the Christian Life. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1938.
~ pp. 62-63 ~

The Modern Girl’s Craze for Dancing

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

the modern girl seizes her opportunitiesIn 1920 Arnold Bennett wrote in his book Our Women about everything from the “perils of writing about women” ~ “the idea would not occur to me to write a book about men; the subject would insufficiently attract me, because it would contain no challenging possibilities, I should as soon think of writing about the multiplication table” ~ to two chapters outlining the masculine and feminine views of the sex discord.

The following excerpt is from an entertaining chapter entitled “Salary-Earning Girls.”

1920: The Modern Girl’s Craze for Dancing

Admitted, [the modern girl] is fond of pleasure. All young people are fond of pleasure, and if they are not then there is something wrong with them. The grey-haired lady when her hair was golden was precisely like the modern girl in this: she took all the pleasure that the social machine had offered to her. Often it was little enough, perhaps. To my mind the tragedy of existence ~ provincial existence in particular ~ fifty years ago lay in the failure of communitites to organise themselves for pleasure. The doom of ennui lay upon whole districts, including the suburbs of great capitals. And it was terrible and its effects were vicious. That is altered, and is being still further altered. Society has organised itself better for work, and better also for pleasure. Life is made to yield more than it used to yield, and yet life lasts longer and youth lasts longer.

The modern girl seizes her opportunities ~ she does no more. The increase of opportunity is due to the improvements in education ~ and in transport. It is due, that is to say, to improved work, part of which work is done by the modern girl herself. And since work precedes pleasure, and the energy of the modern girl is finite, she is very unlikely to carry pleasure to excess. If she did, it would as usual cease to be pleasure.

Much is said about the modern girl’s craze for dancing. But seeing that the modern girl dances with the modern youth the alleged craze cannot be charged against one sex only. And is it necessary to point out that dancing is not an invention of the present age? On the contrary, the erudite affirm that dancing is among the oldest, if it is not the oldest, of human diversions. No later device has surpassed it in healthiness, sanity and pleasure-giving quality. Probably there never was a time when the healthy girls were not “crazy” for dancing. If the modern girl dances more than her ancestress, the explanation is that nowadays a dance can be arranged and carried out with less than a tenth of the trouble necessary in the past, and that communities have discovered their own vast potentialities for organised enjoyment. The explanation is certainly not that something sinister and incomprehensible has happened to the modern girl.

Source: Bennett, Arnold. Our Women: Chapters on the Sex-Discord. New York: Truth Publishing Company, 1921.
~ pp. 146-48 ~