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 ‘femininity’

How to Light a Cigarette

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

the gentleman lightsQ Dear Miss Abigail:

What is the proper etiquette for lighting someone else’s cigarette? A friend of mine said if you’re using a lighter you light their’s first and your’s next, but if you’re using matches you light your’s first because of the sulfury taste of matches. I though you always light their’s first, but if you use a match you should hold it away until it quits sparkling. Also, do you bring the flame to the cigarette or hold it still and let the cigarette come to it?

Smoker in Northwest

A Dear Smoker:

Darling, I have consulted a variety of decades in order to address your question. I have found that, even as far back as 1945, smoking was and is considered a nasty, nasty habit, one which you should quit immediately in order to maintain your health and well-being. Put down those lighters! Put down those cigarettes! Don’t aid a friend’s addiction by lighting their “instrument of death” for them! That said, I relay the following words about smoking, directly from the voices of those respected and wise etiquette advisors.

1945: Striking a Match

Striking a match directly at someone ~ most often outdoors and “with the wind” ~ belongs in the category with a pointed gun, should the head of the match fly off and land ~ or sparks blow ~ on a woman’s inflammable dress.

Source: Post, Emily. Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company,1945.
~ p. 446 ~

1957: Tobacco is a Nasty Weed

Smoking is very common that not smoking may make one feel odd or peculiarn . . . . When a cigarette is offered a girl may simply smile and say, “No, thank you.” No elaborate explanation is necessary. She does not have to say that she does not smoke, or that she feels that smoking is an unpleasant habit. In fact, the less said about it the better. She can turn the conversation in another direction at the same time that she refuses the smoke, for the cigarette itself is something not very important.

Jerry carries a roll of candy mints in his pocket. Whenever he is with a group in which cigarettes are passed, he refuses the smoke at the same time that he offers his mints to the members of the group. He finds that he can be just as sociable with his little lifesavers as the other fellows are with their smokes. In fact, he has been pleasantly surprised to find that other boys and girls often seem grateful for the mint in such a situation.

Tobacco is habit forming. Once one has begun to smoke, he finds that he has to continue. Without a cigarette, one feels restless, his head aches, he “just can’t wait for a smoke.” This is what led one young man to observe wryly:

Tobacco is a nasty weed, I love it;
Tobacco is an expensive habit, I love it;
Tobacco is a messy practice, I love it;
Tobacco is a social crutch, I love it;
Tobacco is my master, I love it!

Source: Duvall, Evelyn Millis. Facts of Life and Love for Teen-Agers. New York: Popular Library/National Board of Young Men’s Christian Associations, 1957.
~ pp. 222-224 ~

1963: “Do You Mind?”

We do not light a cigarette in the presence of one who does not smoke without first asking, “Do you mind?” Smoke really makes some people ill, you know. The gentleman lights the girl’s cigarette first. If he does not smoke, we hand him our lighter. Never do we talk with a cigarette in the mouth, allow it to remain lighted in a tray while eating, or do we use anything as an ashtray that was not meant to be one. And, no matter if “Mrs. Blueblood” smokes on a city street, we should not if we do not want to appear as a coarse woman.

Source: Culkin, Anne. Charm for Young Women. New York: Deus Books, 1963.
~p. 134~

1963: How to Be More Feminine

Expect to have you cigarette lighted.

Source: Brown, Helen Gurley. Sex and the Single Girl. New York: Giant Cardinal/Pocket Books, Inc.,1963.
~ p. 77 ~


Thursday, August 12th, 2010

place a man under your feminine powerSo much can be learned from the dedications of books. I quote Mr. Lelord Kordel, author of this selection (from Lady, Be Loved):

I do not believe that the American woman is as desirable as she can be, although I will grant that she excels the women of other nations in almost all points of outward attractiveness. Yet, the American sweetheart, and the American wife, does not make the most of her sex possibilities for happiness in marriage. And so I dedicate this book to the American woman . . . lovely as she is, supremely desirable as she can become.

Upon reading this small excerpt, however, I believe that Mr. Kordel was actually using this book to rant and rave about a specific woman who obviously annoyed the heck out of him, rather than the “American woman.” But I guess we’ll never know. . . .

1953: Daintiness

There is a feminine charm which goes beyond mere cleanliness ~ it is daintiness. Or, if you prefer, femininity.

A buxom lass in overalls, with a mannish haircut, rolling a cigarette and handling sacks of fertilizer may be scrupulously scrubbed and as clean as a freshly bathed infant. But is she dainty? Is she “feminine”? Definitely not. Why? Because she does not appear to masculine eyes as a woman. To a man, the word “woman” conjures up the vision of a feminine body, soft and fragrant.

Let me go on record right at this point that men do not desire masculine women. Does an effeminate, powdered, rouged, delicately scented man appeal to the woman in you? You may feel an urge to mother him, or to be a sister to him, but he does not appeal to you as a mate. There is no better way for me to describe how a masculine woman affects a man than to say that the appeal is similar; he may think that such a woman is a “heck of a swell fellow,” or a “darn good sport,” but she does not arouse the male in him to desire her!

And while on this subject, let me remind some of you that ultra-smart, mannish suits and hats, plus “slicked back” hairdos, may make other women think you are the last word in fashion. But the man in your life ~ or the man you would like in your life ~ would much prefer you in something soft and clinging, preferably in color with dainty touches of white or other light colors here and there ~ and with your hair soft and fluffy around your face. Oh, I know that perhaps there are some men who claim to admire the ultra-smart woman who imitates masculine attire to the nth degree. But mostly they are men who either have an interest in designing and selling such attire to women, or who are afraid to “speak out in meeting” to voice their true opinions about their preference in woman’s clothes.

So if there is a special date coming up, or a sentimental anniversary to celebrate, for the sake of your sex appeal, do not go out and buy that severely mannish-cut outfit which will cost a fractional part of the national debt, and do not have the hairdresser pull your hair atop your head in a small imitation of an atom-bomb cloud.

Remember that soft, revealing lines, dainty colors and curls are what place a man under your feminine power! These are things which help make him desire you.

Source: Kordel, Lelord. Lady, Be Loved!. Cleveland, Ohio: World Publishing Company, 1953.
~ pp. 48-49 ~