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 ‘exercise’

Sears Discovery Charm School: Exercise

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Peggy Flemming

Per Lynette’s suggestion, Part II of my series on excerpts from the Sears Discover Charm School book (ca. 1972 version) will focus on exercise. This chapter features none other than Olympic skater Peggy Flemming!

Peggy, take it away:


A smooth flowing body. A tingle. A good feeling all over. A scrumptious look. A healthy body. There’s an endless list of good things that happen to you through exercise. It should be enough to make everyone head for the nearest pair of sneakers each morning. But it isn’t. A lot of people still manage to avoid exercise. Mostly because they’re not quite sure about what they should do. And they never get to the point where exercising becomes a regular part of their day. That’s where they get stuck. Here’s how to switch things around  and get unstuck. Here’s how you get going.

The first thing to do is to set aside a certain time of the day…every day…for exercise. Be a wildcat about staying with it. You might find the morning a good time because it can become part of your getting-up routine like brushing your teeth, showering and putting yourself together.

There are many different ways to exercise. Walking, bike riding, swimming, things like that are all good. And very important. But there are other exercises that are equally important. Exercises designed to zero in on certain parts of the body. These are the streamliners. They not only work for a firmer and more supple you, they also give you the kind of physical awareness that shows through when you stand or walk or move.

If you’re planning a career in modeling or fashion or as a performer, these are particularly important for you since your physical appearance is so much a part of your work.

You might recognize some of these streamliners as looking like the exercises done in a ballet class. And you’d be right. I’ve put them into this program because I feel that ballet is probably one of the best ways to reach the hard-to-get-to muscles. The ones that don’t ordinarily get worked on in other kinds of exercise. They make for that smooth and firm look and help you move easily and naturally. That’s what we’re after. All of this will take time and effort. But it’s worth it. Don’t be a softie because of excuses. Stay with it. You might find it hard in the beginning but when you start to see and feel results, it might even get to be fun.


The following images are some, though not all, of the suggested exercises. I particularly like the bosom and hip and buttocks exercises. Now that looks like some fun!

Warm up, head and neck, shoulders

This “Chart your own course” page is partially filled in by the book’s original owner. She didn’t follow through, it appears, so we’ll never know what her finish measurements were. But you know what that means, less for you to white out and and fill in your own numbers!

Next up in the series: Voice and Speech.

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 ~

What Do You Want? Bigger Boobs! When Do You Want Them? Now!

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

nothing to be ashamed ofQ Dear Miss Abigail:

How do I make my boobs look bigger without padding?


A Dear Razzy:

Ever heard of Judy Blume and that little book she wrote about a girl named Margaret? The one my friends and I practically memorized? No? Well, never mind. We’ll have to settle for the following tips about our friend The Bosom. They’re from McCall’s Guide to Teen-Age Beauty and Glamour, which written by Betsy Keiffer in 1958.

1959: Bosom ~ Too Much or Too Little

If you have a problem in this department, the chances are that it’s neither so grave nor so permanent as you think it is. For one thing, your proportions are still changing, and what seems like an opera star’s endowment today may be in perfect proportion with the rest of you by the time you’re in your twenties. And what strikes you as a calamitously flat chest still has time to develop more becoming contours. But in either case there are ways to make yourself happier about your looks in the meantime.

If you think your bosom is too large, and you are not generally overweight, clever camouflage is your best ally. Your bra is an essential ingredient of this. Shop in a store that has a wide selection, enlist the help of a salesgirl ~ because they know more about this problem than you do ~ and find a well-designed bra that really fits and supports. Remember that your clothes, too, make a world of difference in the total effect. Stay away from tight sweaters, extravagant collars or necklines, and blouses or dresses made of nubby materials or such clinging fabrics as jersey. Full skirts and waists not too tightly belted will help you look well proportioned. Another point: avoid the sort of hairdo that adds to a top-heavy effect. Keep your hair medium length, simple and sleek. And please, please, don’t hunch over. You have nothing to hide.

If your problem is just the opposite, a bit of padding in your bra, otherwise known as a ‘falsie,’ is nothing to be ashamed of. But do choose both bra and pad (some bras come with built-in padding) carefully. Make sure you’re comfortable and look natural. Experiment with clothes until you find a cut ~ often a bias top ~ that accents your bosom becomingly. For casual wear, stick to blouses or bulky sweaters instead of skin-tight pull-overs.

Naturally, if you look flat-chested because you’re too thin, it’s only sensible to try to put on some weight. And exercises, though there are none which will develop the breasts themselves, can strengthen the muscles that support them and help you avoid a caved-in look. My final plea: don’t waste money on so-called ‘developing’ creams or lotions. The one that really works has yet to be developed.

Source: Keiffer, Betsy. McCall’s Guide to Teen-Age Beauty and Glamour. New York: Pyramid Books,1959.
~ 28-29 ~

Diet in Training

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

huge quanitites of half-raw steakThe following excerpt, from Gladys Cox’s book entitled Youth, Sex, and Life, does kinda sorta prove that mom wasn’t lying when she told you not to swim after eating lunch. So after you finish reading this, get off the computer, pick up the phone, and call your mom. It’s time to thank her for saving your life.

1946: Diet in Training

In the old days of the prize ring, training was usually preceded by a violent purging; and the diet consisted largely of huge quanitites of half-raw steak. Experience has shown this to be utterly wrong. If you are taking a clean, varied, and moderate diet, you probably need not vary it at all; though you may find benefit from cutting down some items and increasing others, such as fruit. If you are not already on a clean, healthy diet, then you should be; and the sooner you put yourself on to it the better!

It may be worth while to remind you that few of us drink as much plain water as we should; and you may well correct this error.

It should be unnecessary to warn any one who knows anything about the working of the body against the folly of being strenuous too soon after a meal. Yet in spite of warnings in the Press, numbers of swimmers commit suicide every year by going into the water shortly after a heavy meal; and a few die at other sports through the same error of judgment. It is best to have noheavy meals at all; but if you do have heavy meals, give them two or three hours to ‘settle’ before you do anything violent ~ and particularly before you go into the water. It is worth while to try for yourself, by actual experiment, whether your wind is better and whether you last longer, if you take nothing but the lightest food on the days when you are going to be really vigorous, and nothing at all for at least two hours before the actual exertion begins. You will not suffer from any lack of strength through undernourishment; you ‘run’ on yesterday’s food, and on the stores laid by before yesterday. Try this and other experiments, for individuals vary greatly; but don’t trouble to try whether a heavy meal just before exercise suits you ~ it

Source: Cox, Gladys M. Youth, Sex, and Life. London: George Newnes Limited, 1946.
~ pp. 93-94 ~

Stair Climbing

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

stimulate heart and lungThere’s nothing like spending a long weekend hunched over the computer, as I often do. So with posture on the mind, I bring you a selection from a 1919 book called The Posture of School Children. Once property of the State Normal School, in Buffalo, NY, this book was found while visiting Grandma Rose and Daddy Dave up north.

Although sweet Gma Rose never said anything about my posture as I was growing up, I’m sure Grandmother Bailey, who once enrolled me in a very traumatizing summer charm school, is turning in her grave at the sight of my slouching shoulders. I better start climbing!

1919: Stair Climbing

Stair climbing, both as to its methods and effects, is one of those common activities about which cling many traditional fallacies. Stair climbing may be an excellent excercise, stimulating to good circulation and deep breathing. To any one in normal health it can do no harm if not carried to excess. The point of departure comes when the tax upon the heart is excessive, and for this reason the climbing of many flights of stairs many times a day should be avoided, even for a person in normal condition. A reasonable amount of stair climbing, however, may be looked upon as good exercise for those in normal health, if the erect posture be maintained throughout. This is the essential point in stair climbing. The lifting of the whole weight of the body by the large muscles of the legs and thighs will stimulate heart and lung action very quickly. This is an inevitable physiological consequence ~ a perfectly natural result ~ and, indeed, the effect that makes stair climbing a good exercise. If the trunk be bent forward at the waist, however, in any of the cramped or collapsed positions of poor posture, the action of heart and lung is quickly embarrassed, and distress and undue fatigue at the time and afterward are the result. There should, therefore, be an erect carriage of the trunk as a fundamental requisite to stair climbing. Even with this posture, an extended climb will result in a quickening of the breath. Any one not burdened with excessive flesh should be in such good condition (training) that at least once flight of stairs could be climbed without noticeable embarrassment of respiration. When the climbing of several flights is necessary, one should not hesitate to stand or sit and rest a moment in transit.

Source: Bancroft, Jessie H. The Posture of School Children. New York: Macmillan Company, 1919.
~ pp. 115-116 ~

1952: Are You Ready for a Hike?

Monday, July 9th, 2007

Well, we’re certainly in the thick of summer, as is apparent here in very steamy District of Columbia Metropolitan area. And I’m sure everyone trying to figure out what to do to keep cool yet get out of the house, to enjoy a bit of nature. As Evelyn Millis Duvall writes in Love and the Facts of Life (which can be taken to heart by courting fools as well as groups of singles and married folk, I’d say) “some of the most enjoyable dates are those spent at picnics, around barbeque fires, swimming, skating, singing, playing folk games, and other such informal outings.”

But such fun, informal outings aren’t without danger, as William A. Evans warns us in Everyday Safety. He’s a bit less cavalier than Ms. Duvall, and in addition to safety tips about swimming, boating, and building a fire, he provides these helpful hints on hiking through the woods.

Hiking through the fields and woods is great fun. To enjoy a good hike it is important that you be properly dressed for the occasion. Good heavy-soled shoes are the first thing needed if you plan to walk very far. Girls should wear low-heeled shoes; to have a good time one must be comfortable, and there is less danger of turning one’s ankle if low-heeled shoes are worn. Full-length trousers, slacks, or heavy stockings should be worn in order to protect the legs. The other clothing should be comfortably loose and not too heavy because the exercise keeps one warm. It is a good plan to wear a jacket or shirt with full-length sleeves in order to protect the arms.

One of the things which most frequently spoils the fun of being out in the woods or fields is infection from poison ivy, poison oak, sumac, or other kinds of weeds. Some persons seem to be immune from such poisoning while others are poisoned even by wild daisies, ragweeds, or smart weeds. There is also the danger of infection from scratches caused by briars, thorns, burrs, and splinters.

If that quote didn’t depress you enough, you might be interested in another from this book, on Carelessness. And if you’re thinking ahead to winter, here’s another from killjoy Evans.

On that note, I hope you are having a fun summer. But not too much fun! Be careful out there!