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 ‘drinking’

Some Thinking on Drinking

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

stories of innocent maidensMy friend and I were approached by our waitress the other night after we had finished eating dinner. “A gentlemen at the bar would like to buy you ladies a drink,” she claimed. We were a bit confused ~ let’s just say we were not dressed or acting in any manner to attract the opposite sex, and our gift-giver was not making himself obvious. Despite our keen sense of etiquette we were unsure what to do, so we hestitantly accepted the drink.

So the question was begged, what does one do when offered a free drink from a stranger? Well, there wasn’t much on this topic, unless you count Helen Gurley Brown telling us in Sex and the Single Girl to “Expect and encourage gifts from men. They are part of the spoils of being single.” Here’s some further advice on drinking from a different book on a similar theme, titled How to Be Happy While Single.

1949: Some Thinking on Drinking

The girl who drinks too much is no more of a problem than the man who guzzles too freely. Most girls agree however that the difficulty is not, as they may have been led to believe in their impressionable budding girlhood, one of protecting their honor. They hear stories of innocent maidens set upon by drunken brutes and wonder, because this sort of thing always seems to happen to other people, never to them. It’s the boys who stay sober who bear watching. As for their own reactions to liquor, some women admittedly become somewhat amorous when drinking. The girl who realizes this fatal tendency within herself has to keep on the double qui vive. She doesn’t worry half as much about the man as she worries about herself. If she can handle her own affectionate proclivities, she won’t have any trouble managing his. If not, she may awaken in the stark light of dawn to recall the night before with discomfiture and embarrassment, ardently wishing that someone would arise from the earth to bear her off, as Pluto carried Proserpine. Nothing will come of it. It is much better for her to keep reminding herself while drinking that the man didn’t look half as attractive before she had that fourth Manhattan.

Source: Van Evera, Jean. How to be Happy While Single. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1949.
~ pp. 76-77 ~

Stop Drinking and Listen To Your Mother

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

so it goesQ Dear Miss Abigail:

If you let your thirty-one year old son live with you, and you’re trying to help him get on his feet, and you’re selling him a car, shouldn’t he respect you and quit drinking?


A Dear Dolly:

Oh, goody. This is an easy one ~ YES!

In fact, if he doesn’t shape up and show you some respect, your son is destined to join the Fellowship of the Rude, rather than that of the Well-bred as Mary Clark and Margery Quigley discuss in the following passage from Etiquette, Jr.

1939: At Home

Most boys and girls seem to feel superior to their parents. It is a chronic condition; in all probability, the present parents in their day felt superior to the parents of the generation before. So it goes. Shades of Darwin forbid us to think back too far. . . .

The superiority complex prevents many adolescents from listening carefully while their mothers and fathers address them, and from answering intelligently and truthfully questions put to them. Sometimes they omit the word ‘Mother’ or ‘Father’ from ‘Yes, Mother,’ ‘No, Mother,’ ‘Yes, Father,’ ‘No, Father.’

No one can be admitted to the Fellowship of the Well-bred who is rude or patronizing to parents or to older people. Boys and girls are judged very severely by their attitude to their elders. Every Week, National Respect-For-Elders Week was brought into general esteem by Confucius as early as 500 B. C., and millions of persons are still cheering the big idea.

Source: Clark, Mary E. and Margery Closey Quigley. Etiquette, Jr. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1939.
~ pp. 187-89 ~

Joy-riding to the Roadhouse

Monday, July 12th, 2010

course music and inferior liquorThis selection is from Elinor Glyn’s This Passion Called Love, which was published in 1925. Appearing in a chapter entitled “The Results of Petting and Drinking,” this excerpt has some very grave warnings for the youth (particularly the young ladies) of the 1920s. Personally I find “roadhouses” quite enticing, but I guess I could learn a thing or two from Miss Glyn.

1925: Joy-riding to the Roadhouse

In some respects, the automobile has become a disturbing element in the lives of boys and girls. In years past, courtship progressed at the girl’s home, on lovers’-lane strolls, at parties, dances and the like, while to-day the automobile and good roads enable the young people quickly to reach comparatively distant points of entertainment. Roadhouses and wayside inns have sprung up at places of necessary and desirable remoteness, where the restraints of nearby residents are not available for quelling unruly emotions and passions that follow course music and inferior liquor. So, young girls, unless you have been reared with a happy sense of restraint and the fitness of things, you endanger your peace of mind and your good repute by frequenting roadhouses in the company of casual male companions.

True it is that parents are much to blame for a certain slackness in the training and observation of their children. Father and mother, with their car, cannot always expect daughter and her friend to be satisfied to motor quietly about with them. If the parents are too often joy-riding alone themselves, they can hardly expect daughter to remain at home looking over the latest styles or trying out the newest fox-trot.

And, young girls, if you must joy-ride, insist that your escort return you home at an early hour. Do not frequent roadhouses where they serve liquor. Even though you may not drink yourself, you will be credited with having done so. In these days of abominable bootleg poison and lax standards, you may regret to the end of your days the moment you began drinking. Liquor is not for the young. Your blood is fresh and vigorous enough to give you all the stimulus you need. You are naturally vivacious. Impressions are new. You can have simply wonderful times without the assistance of liquor. Spirits will deaden your sense, will lull to sleep your caution, will lead you gradually and unknowingly and pleasantly to indiscretions that your later awakening will horribly contemplate. Heed not the taunts and sneers of your male escort or any other of the ladies of the party who may be indulging in liquor ~ the men may wish you to drink for a purpose, while it cuts the pride of the other girls to have you refrain. Such companions are not your friends ~ they will injure you, not help you.

Source: Glyn, Elinor. This Passion Called Love. Auburn, N.Y.: The Authors’ Press, 1925.
~ pp. 24-26 ~

About Drinking

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

“Boys and girls, do practice self-denial and do not drink much soda water either. Remember that soda water is very bad for growing bones and teeth as well as for your stomach. Besides, by taking it, you get into the habit of drinking, and if you must have soda when you are young, you will probably think you must have much stronger drinks when you are older. Those who ‘cannot resist’ a glass of soda now, will not be able to ‘resist’ taking a glass of some stronger drink later on.”

This gem comes from a chapter called “Good and Bad Drinking Habits,” found in a 1913 book for children titled Yourself and Your House Wonderful (written by H.A. Guerber). Now, I don’t normally see advice books for young kids with such grownup topics (this book also has a chapter “About Smoking and Chewing”), so I had to learn more. Reading the introduction, I saw that the author explains “to parents and teachers,” and is quite confident sharing such information:

“I have become more and more convinced of the pressing need of a work dealing frankly and explicitly with all the matters usually discussed, but also of excretion, sex, and reproduction, topics to which most books merely allude, which good people approach in fear and trembling, and about which none but the impure speak freely at all times and refuse to be silenced.” He goes on to say “our children have the right to know the exact truth about themselves.”

Here’s some advice from the same chapter for young girls:

“I would advise every girl who reads his book not only to be very careful about her own food and drink at all times, but when she grows up never to marry any man who is too self-indulgent in this matter. If she does, she may find herself with a drunken husband, sickly children, ruined health and leading a most unhappy life.

When it is thoroughly understood that no good woman will ever marry a man who drinks even a little, the men who expect to marry some day, and have homes and children of their own, will realize that they must keep away from temptation. So you see, girls, even if you cannot vote or change the laws, you can help to bring about a better state of things. Are you willing to do it?”