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 ‘emotion’

Put Heart-Warmth in Your Voice

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

modulate it musicallyStill recovering from getting my wisdom teeth out last weekend, I’ve been doing some jaw exercises to relax the muscles and help lessen the pain. So when I came across this exercise of the voice, I found it helpful. Well, maybe not so helpful, but it sure made me laugh when I tried her suggestions, and so took my mind off the pain. The quote is from the third edition of The Woman You Want to Be: Margery Wilson’s Book of Charm.

1942: Put Heart-Warmth in Your Voice

Your voice reflects emotions as surely as a mirror gives back the image of what is placed before it. No amount of vocal excercises will put ‘soul’ into a voice. The magnetic, warm overtones that can make a homely woman seem charming are the definite results of sweetness, generosity and love of humanity. There is no way to imitate this warmth in the voice. It must come within. Throughout these lessons we bring out certain qualities of mind and character that give this entrancing timbre to the voice.

However, many of our noblest people pitch their voices so badly that the natural sweetness is choked out. It behooves everyone to place the speaking voice correctly and to modulate it musically. Here is an exercise that will take the shrillness and nasal quality out of any voice and lend it to a lovely mellowness.

EXERCISE: Yawn. Hold your throat open and repeat the word ‘mood’ very distinctly three times, pitches as low as you can without growling or producing a false tone. Imagine that the ‘oo’ sound comes from your chest. This vowel opens your throat. Now with your throat in the position it took to say ‘mood’ repeat the word ‘ice’ three times. Again ‘mood’ three times ~ then with the throat in the ‘oo’ position say ‘ice’ three times. Do this ten times. Now say ‘mood’ three times; with the throat in the ‘oo’ position say ‘early’ ~ then substitute the words ‘regular,’ ‘Mary,’ ‘pie,’ ‘fancy’ and ‘three.’ Always say ‘mood’ first and be sure to pronounce distinctly. This exercise will take the shrillness and nasal quality out of any voice and give it a lovely mellowness. Do this regularly and whenever possible and as long as you can without tiring unused muscles. Practice using the principles of contrast in conversation.

Source: Wilson, Margery. The Woman You Want to Be. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1942.
~ pp. 58-59 ~

Temper, Temper, Temper!

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

the girl with a bad temperQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Is it polite to throw things at people?

Miss Kate

A Dear Miss Kate:

Hmmm . . . why do I think you already know the answer to this question? But just in case you need a refresher course in common sense, I’ve located the following excerpts: the first is from Arlene Francis and her book titled That Certain Something: The Magic of Charm (1960). The other, found in Charm for Young Women, was written by Anne Culkin a few years later. I think they serve as a fine reminder of some of the troubles we may face as we try to stay on the path to Charm City.

Oh, Kate? Before we continue, would you do me a favor? Would you mind putting down that knife?

1960: Think About Someone You Dislike ~ And Wish Him Well Even If It Kills You

Our own pettiness and hatreds detract from charm much more seriously than we’re inclined to think. When I get letters (I resent letters that are anonymous) that tell me I make the viewer sick and why don’t I drop dead, I envision the mean, tight, little mind and soul that would prompt such an unpleasant attack, and know what a miserable life such a person must lead. To constantly slander those whom you dislike is to eat away at your own spirit. Inner harmony has for its outward expression grace and felicity, and while that may sound a little like Pollyanna at a picnic, it’s a darned sight easier to live with than hatred, which Byron so succinctly called ‘the madness of the heart.’

Source: Francis, Arlene. That Certain Something. New York: Julian Messner, Inc., 1960.
~ p. 139 ~

1963: Temper

The person who loses her temper loses much! The harsh words that cannot be recalled, the emotional outbursts that frighten as well as repel, prompt one to ask: ‘What is ever gained by it?’ If, prior to explosion, she were to ask herself this question instead of counting to ten as often recommended, the uncontrollable temper would soon be brought under control; and once again, or perhaps for the first time, the girl with a bad temper would be thought of as a lady!

Source: Culkin, Anne. Charm for Young Women. New York: Deus Books, 1963.
~ pp. 135-36 ~

A Sunny Disposition

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

full of smiles and sunshine“This little book is born of a desire to help and encourage our girls who are struggling with the problems that come up in teens,” Mabel Hale writes in the foreword to Beautiful Girlhood. “Youth has its problems, its heartaches, and disappointments. It is not always a smooth path to the perfection of womanhood.” Ya got that right, Mabel. With chapters titled “The Strength of Obedience” and “The Girl Who Can Be Trusted,” Hale’s book certainly has helped me understand my teens ~ so what if I’m reading it twenty years too late?

1922: A Sunny Disposition

Once I looked upon the face of a dear little boy whose bright eyes and sunny smiles cheered my heart. I asked him what his name might be, and he answered, ‘Papa calls me Sunshine John.’ Then I knew that the merry smile I saw was, as I thought, an index to the sunny little heart. Any home is blest if it has a sunshine-maker.

Every girl owes it to herself and to her associates to be sunny. A happy girlhood is so beautiful that it can not afford to be spoiled by needless frowns and pouts. There are clouds enough in life without making them out of temper. A girl who is full of smiles and sunshine is a fountain of joy to all who know her. The world has enough of tears and sorrow at best, and her sweet, smiling face can scatter untold clouds. Could a girl ask for a better calling than that of a joy-maker for all about her?

Every girl must meet her share of bumps in life. If they do not come soon they must come late. It is impossible that she should pass through life in the sunshine all the time. She must have her share of shadow. She can not escape it. But it is not the deep shadows that generally cloud a girl’s life, and make her unhappy and sullen. It is the little things, insignificant in themselves, and which could have been passed by with hardly a thought if resisted one by one, that irritate the temper and mar the happiness. Every day our girl will meet with circumstances in which she has her choice between frowning and sending back a stinging retort, or smiling and passing them by with a kind word. If she can pass these little bumps and keep sweet, then she has mastered the art of being sunny.

Source: Hale, Mabel. Beautiful Girlhood. Anderson, Ill.: [Gospel Trumpet Co.?], 1922.
~ pp. 56-57 ~

How Do I Banish Blushing?

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

a bath of nourishing bloodQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I blush easily and I hate it. In certain situations, I get so uncomfortable that my face really turns bright red. This usually happens when I get embarrassed or just when I’m with people or friends. When the teacher calls me, I blush. When someone comes up to me, I blush. This is destroying my social life. I don’t want to go out with my friends anymore, because I’ll just make a fool of myself by constantly blushing. I don’t know what to do!


A Dear April:

I searched long and hard for an answer to your question, because I, too, used to be shy and blushed quite a bit. You’ll be happy to hear that I finally found this excerpt from Dr. Arthur Roth’s book titled The Teen-Age Years, which addresses your problem perfectly! Never fear, April, your blushing will disappear.

1960: Skin-Deep ~ Blushing

The skin is a link between the inner workings of each person’s body and the world outside. It is made up of living tissue and therefore subject to the same natural laws and conditions as the hidden inner tissues and organs. The skin often shows results of these internal laws and conditions that otherwise could not be seen directly.

A good example is blushing ~ the reddening of the skin which occurs whenever the usually tiny surface blood vessels enlarge and bring more blood to the surface than is usually there. Blushing may be part of a generalized reaction throughout most of the body. It is in this way that many organ systems are given a bath of nourishing blood so that the individual is ready to fight harder, run faster, or in some other way respond to a dangerous, frightening, or exciting situation. Of course, in most situations that arise in modern living, excitement or stimulation does not usually result in a fight or a flight for life. Nowadays internal and outward blushing is usually accompanied only by a pounding pulse, and maybe by a shy lowering of the head.

‘Why do I blush so much?’ teen-agers often ask. All people blush under certain provocations. Some feel that a blush is an unconscious admission of being too childish or having something wrong in one’s make-up. Those who are fair-skinned, or literally thin-skinned in comparison to others, become red-faced much more quickly and much more evidently than their associates. Situations that call for blushing are quite frequent during the adolescent years. Sheldon blushes when he misjudges his own size and knocks over a dish while reaching for the salt. Louise wants to be considered an adult woman, though she is fourteen. When she is successful in convincing a new acquaintance that she is really older than she is, she blushes.

Problems that were not understood at all or which were only dimly suggested during childhood become crucial for adolescents. The tendency to blush will diminish as the smoothing effects of repetition and familiarity with adult problems are experienced.

Source: Roth, Arthur. The Teen-Age Years. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1960.
~ pp. 110-11 ~

Laughter, a Great Tonic

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

a good laugh makes better friendsAccording to this worthwhile excerpt from The Household Guide, hearty laughs are where it’s at, folks. Stay away from those giggles. When you laugh, laugh with purpose! C’mon everyone, laugh with me! Ha ha! Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha! Ba ha ha! Whew. That felt good.

1902: Laughter, a Great Tonic

Keeps the Spirit Buoyant, the Heart and Face Young.

‘I presume if we laughed more we should all be happier and healthier,’ writes Edward W. Bok in the Ladies’ Home Journal. ‘True, we are a busy and a very practical people. And most of us probably find more in this life to bring the frown than the smile. But, nevertheless, it is a pity that we do not laugh more; that we do not bring ourselves to the laugh, if need be.

Best Medicine. ~ We all agree that a good laugh is the best medicine in the world. Physicians have said that no other feeling works so much good to the entire human body as that of merriment. As a digestive, it is unexcelled; as a means of expanding the lungs, there is nothing better. It keeps the heart and face young. It is the best of all tonics to the spirits. It is, too, the most enjoyable of all sensations.

Better Friends. ~ A good laugh makes better friends with ourselves and everybody around us, and puts us into closer touch with what is best and brightest in our lot in life. It is to be regretted, then, that such a potent agency for our personal good is not more often used.

Not Expensive. ~ It costs nothing. All other medicines are more or less expensive. “Why,” said an old doctor not long ago, “if people fully realized what it means to themselves to laugh, and laughed as they should, ninety per cent of the doctors would have to go out of business.” Probably when we get a little less busy we shall laugh more. For, after all, the difference between gloom and laughter is but a step. And if more of us simply took a step aside oftener than we do, and rested more, we would laugh more.

Laughter, not Giggling. ~ By laughing I do not mean the silly giggle indulged in by some women and so many girls and boys, too. There is no outward mark which demonstrates the woman of shallow mind so unmistakably as that of giggling. There is no sense in the giggle, no benefit to be derived from it. It makes a fool of the person, and renders every one about uncomfortable.

A Healthful Nature. ~ But just as the giggle is the outcome of a small mind, the hearty laugh is the reflection of a healthful nature. What we want is more good laughers in the world, not more gigglers.’

Source: Jefferis, Prof. B. G. The Household Guide, or Domestic Cyclopedia. Atlanta, Ga.: J. L. Nichols & Co., 1902.
~ p. 50 ~

The Fine Art of Smiling

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

the obsequious smile of the flattererI just saw a program on Botox treatments, and boy does that look weird. No matter how many books I read on the subject of beauty, it’s still hard to understand the extent that folks will mutilate themselves for the sake of it all.

Although I personally would never get a treatment such as that, I don’t want to discriminate against those who would. I hear that one of the side effects is the inability to show a variety of expressions. To help those who may, during their treatment period, forget why a smile is a good thing, I turn to this excerpt from Bits of Talk About Home Matters. Just doing my part for society.

1895: The Fine Art of Smiling

The purely natural smile . . . is seldom seen in adults; and it is on this point that we wish to dwell. Very early in life people find out that a smile is a weapon, mighty to avail in all sorts of crises. Hence, we see the treacherous smile of the wily; the patronizing smile of the pompous; the obsequious smile of the flatterer; the cynical smile of the satirist. . . . All such smiles are hideous. The gloomiest, blankest look which a human face can wear is welcomer than a trained smile or a smile which, if it is not actually and consciously methodized by its perpetrator, has become, by long repetition, so associated with tricks and falsities that it partakes of their quality.

What, then, is the fine art of smiling?

If smiles may not be used for weapons or masks, of what use are they? That is the shape one would think the question took in most men’s minds, if we may judge by their behavior! There are but two legitimate purposes of the smile; but two honest smiles. On all little children’s faces such smiles are seen. Woe to us that we so soon waste and lose them!

The first use of the smile is to express affectionate good-will; the second, to express mirth.

Why do we not always smile whenever we meet the eye of a fellow-being? That is the true, intended recognition which ought to pass from soul to soul constantly. Little children, in simple communities, do this involuntarily, unconsciously. The honest -hearted German peasant does it. It is like magical sunlight all through that simple land, the perpetual greeting on the right hand and on the left, between strangers, as they pass by each other, never without a smile. This, then, is ‘the fine art of smiling;’ like all fine art, true art, perfection of art, the simplest following of Nature.

Source: Hunt, Helen (H.H.). Bits of Talk About Home Matters. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1895.
~ pp. 166-67 ~

Crying and Health

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

 a loud boo-hooI’ve read a lot about the benefits of laughing, but I think this is the first I’ve seen on crying. When I saw this paragraph, Al Gore and his groaning and sighing in the presidential debate [years ago] came to mind, so I thought it was appropriate to share. It was written by C. H. Fowler and W. H. De Puy in their Home and Health and Home Economics, published a long, long, time ago.

1880: Crying and Health

Probably most persons have experienced the effect of tears in relieving great sorrow. It is even curious how the feelings are allayed by free indulgence in groans and sighs. A French physician publishes a long dissertation on the advantages of groaning and crying in general, and especially during surgical operations. He contends that groaning and crying are two grand operations by which nature allays anguish; that those patients who give way to their natural feelings more speedily recover from accidents and operations than those who suppose it unworthy a man to betray such symptoms of cowardice as either to groan or cry. He tells of a man who reduced his pulse from one hundred and twenty-six to sixty in the course of a few hours by giving full vent to his emotions. ‘If people are at all unhappy about any thing, let them go into their room and comfort themselves with a loud boo-hoo, and they will feel a hundred per cent better afterward.’ Then let the eyes and mouth be regarded as the safety-valve through which nature discharges her surplus steam.

Source: Fowler, C. H. and W. H. De Puy. Home and Health and Home Economics. New York: Phillips & Hunt, 1880.
~ p. 209 ~