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 ‘grooming’

Hey Joe, Could You Please Clip Your Nails in Private?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

no one should yawn at work!Q Dear Miss Abigail:

Help! How does one gently tell a young and impressionable co-worker that clipping his fingernails in staff meetings ~ and even at his desk ~ is distressing to the rest of us? Eeewwww.

Grossed out by a Guy

A Dear Grossed out:

Staff meetings? Yuck. Hmm . . . Perhaps you could send one of those forwarded emails around to everyone in your office. The body of the email could say “Can you believe this crazy old advice? Fresh underwear! Ha! You gotta check out this web site ~ it is soooo cool!!!! :)” with the text below pasted in. It’s from a chapter in Etiquette, Jr., a book written for young people by Mary E. Clark and Margery C. Quigley in 1939. Let’s hope it helps your co-worker realize he is making his office mates absolutely insane.

1939: Your First Job: Grooming

Be clean. Do not start off to work in an untidy suit or dress, with unpolished shoes, untidy nails, unkempt hair, or with evidences of having recently eaten garlic or onions. Bathe every day and, if possible, twice a day; nothing takes the place of soap and water. ‘The nose knows.’ Always wear fresh underwear, for the same reason. Do not wear party clothes to work, or clothes which are not plain. The desk or counter, or even elevator, is no place to clean your nails, or to comb your hair.

Do not eat except during lunch hours, and then only in the place appointed you to eat. Never pick your teeth in public; do not chew gum. Both are atrociously bad form. Do not chew the office’s pencils or your finger nails.

If you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with your handkerchief. A person must always cover his mouth with a handkerchief to hide a yawn ~ but, then, no one should yawn at work! Always have a clean handkerchief with you, not a crumpled one. Use it. Do not substitute the back of your hand or your sleeve or your fingers. After using your handkerchief do not examine it, but replace it where it belongs. Do not leave it lying around.

Source: Clark, Mary E. and Margery Closey Quigley. Etiquette, Jr. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1939.
~ pp. 238-39 ~

The Care of the Skin

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

bathed continually in gently moving airRecently I got to thinking about skin and sweat and stickiness and then showers and baths and soap and…ah…sweet! How could Inot think about it with all this miserable Washington, D.C., heat? Some further thoughts on the importance of our skin are brought to you this week from Youth, Sex, and Life, written by Gladys Cox.

1946: The Care of the Skin

The skin cannot carry out its important work effectively so as to protect us from a dangerous rise of temperature or from harmful chilling, unless it is kept clean and well ventilated.

Why we wash. Even when we are at rest, and there is no perceptible moistness of the skin, our sweat glands secrete about a pint of sweat a day through their tiny openings, the pores. The sweat contains certain waste products, as has been stated previously, and these are left upon the skin; the surface of the skin is constantly shedding dead skin cells, like leaves falling from trees in early autumn: the skin secretes, in addition to the sweat, a greasy material which keeps it waterproof. On the surface of the skin, then, there collects a mixture of sweat, grease, dead cells, together with dirt from without ~ particles of clothing and dust.

The daily bath. You will now realise the benefit of a daily bath with warm water and soap, to cleanse the skin and enable it to keep active. A cold bath is invigorating, but it has not the same cleansing effect as a warm bath ~ you know how much easier it is to wash greasy dishes in warm water than in cold. The ideal for health is to have a daily bath with warm water and soap, and then finish with a cold sponge down or shower. A clean and healthy skin is a sensitive skin, able to keep in close touch with the temperature-regulating centre in the brain by means of its sensory nerve endings and able to carry out its cooling functions efficiently, and so to protect you from overheating and from chills.

Skin ventilation. In order to be healthily efficient, the skin needs something more than cleanliness: it needs proper ventilation ~ it must be bathed continually in gently moving air. In the absence of proper ventilation the skin is surrounded by a layer of moist, over-heated and stagnant air, and cannot carry out its proper cooling functions. Such a skin becomes partially paralysed and insensitive to changes in temperature, and fails to respond properly to the protective temperature-regulating centre in the brain.

This is why clothing has such an important bearing on health. There are many people who are enervated and depressed, who dread the winter because they are continually catching cold ~ because they are wrongly clothed and so keep their skins half paralysed through lack of ventilation. A healthy, clean, well-ventilated skin is our greatest protection against chills and many other diseases.

Source: Cox, Gladys M. Youth, Sex, and Life. London: George Newnes Limited, 1946.
~ pp. 43-44 ~

My Boyfriend Has B.O.!

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

blighted romance and social ostracismQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I really hope you can help me, because this is driving me up the wall. My boyfriend, who I love very much, has no idea of personal hygiene. He stinks, yet isn’t bothered by it. How can I kindly persuade him to wash before my nose runs away?


A Dear Lydia:

I once had a high school teacher who stunk, but knew it. He warned us on the first day of classes that he had no sense of smell, and that we would just have to deal with the impending odors. We put up with it, but never did understand why he didn’t try just a bit harder to keep clean.

No matter what the reason, this bit of advice from Dress and Grooming, which is Unit Two of Estelle Hunter’s “Personality Development” series might be helpful for your less-than-fresh friend. And if you can’t come right out and say something to him about it, print this page out and subtly leave near a stack of newly purchased shower supplies. Yeah, that’ll work.

1939: Cleanliness the First Essential

The beginning of good grooming is personal cleanliness. Careful bathing is important as a hygienic measure, but it is even more important from the standpoint of personal attractiveness. It is regrettably true, however, that many persons are careless about their bathing. A daily bath with plenty of soap is the minimum essential.

You may laugh at the advertisements picturing the loss of business opportunities, blighted romance, and social ostracism by ‘B.O.’ (body odor), but be sure that you do not offend in this respect. If the hair in your armpits holds perspiration, apply a deodorant and remove the hair at least once a week. If your skin is sensitive, do not apply the deodorant at once, however, as to do so may cause a painful under-arm eruption.

Nothing is more attractive than a clean, healthy-looking skin. The care of the skin is discussed in the section on health, but a word should be said here about the need for using plenty of soap and water.

If the skin is oily, the face should be washed several times daily with warm, but not hot, water and soap. Great care should be taken in selecting soap. Since many soaps disagree with certain skins, everyone should experiment until he finds the soap that agrees with his skin. Following each application of soap and water, the face should be rinsed thoroughly and dried. Finally, a good astringent lotion should be applied.

Skin eruptions are a source of embarrassment to the possessor. Often they indicate some internal disorder. Eliminating them is then a matter of discovering and correcting the source of the trouble.

Source: Hunter, Estelle B. Personality Development, Unit Two: Dress and Grooming. Chicago: The Better-Speech Institute of America, 1939.
~ pp. 115-16 ~

How Well Are You Groomed?

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

are your undergarments clean?This selection comes from a fabulous home economics book sent to me by my friend Helen in Kansas. She searched the region for an addition to Miss Abigail’s collection, and I must say she found the perfect text.

1936: How Well Are You Groomed?

Following are some questions to be considered in judging whether or not one is well groomed. How many of them can you answer satisfactorily? Talk them over with others in your group and compare opinions. Perhaps you will want to show these questions to your mother or to some older girl or woman and get her opinion as to how well you are groomed. List suggestions of ways by which better grooming can be attained.

Body Cleanliness.
1. Do you take a bath or shower every day?
2. Do you use a deodorant?
3. Do you keep the armpits free of hair?
4. Are you free from body odor?
5. If perfume is used, is it fresh, faint, and not cheap?

Face and neck.
1. Is your complexion good, your skin clear?
2. Are your face, neck, and ears clean?
3. Do you use the right shade of powder? Is it entirely invisible?
4. If rouge is used, what principles for selection and use are you trying to follow?
5. What bathing, eating, exercising, and other routines are you following to create an attractive complexion? Mention several of the “facial allies” to personality, such as clean teeth, interested manner, etc.

Eyebrows and eyes.
1. Are your eyebrows natural and brushed smooth?
2. Are your eyes natural, not exaggerated with make-up?
3. Are your eyes bright, healthy? Do you look straight into the eyes of others as you talk to them?

1. Are your hands clean?
2. Are they smooth and white, not red and rough?
3. Are your fingers a good color?
4. Are the nails manicured artistically, so that they are pleasing in shape, not too long, too short, too pointed, too square, too vivid, or too shiny?

1. Does your hair make a becoming frame about your face?
2. Is it tidy?
3. Does it look healthy, alive, well cared for?
4. Is the color natural, not bleached?
5. Is your hair free from dandruff?
6. Do you shampoo it at least once in two weeks?
7. Do you massage your scalp at least once a week?

Teeth and mouth.
1. Are your teeth attractive? That is, do they appear to be in a healthy condition?
2. Are your lips attractive, soft, not dry and cracked?
3. Do you promote a good natural color in your lips and cheeks by adequate sleep and exercise, and by medical attention if you are anemic?
4. Is your breath free from bad odors?
5. Do you clean your teeth at least twice a day?
6. Do you have them cleaned by the dentist one or more times a year, or often enough to keep them attractive?
7. Do you have them regularly examined by the dentist and cared for when needed?

Outer Garments.
1. Are your clothes clean, without spots and odor?
2. Are they neatly mended where necessary?
3. If you wear light-colored or white scarfs, collars and cuffs, or flowers, are they clean and neat?
4. Are your clothes well dressed, without undue wrinkles?
5. Are they well brushed, without dust, dandruff and stray hairs? If necessary, do you have a brush in your locker to freshen your garments?

Shoes and hose.
1. Are your shoes clean and well polished? Do you wipe them off every night? If not, how often? How often do you polish them? Have you a cleaning kit in your room?
2. Do you keep your heels clean and straight? When you polish shoes, do you polish the backs?
3. Are your hose clean? Do you wear a clean pair of stockings every day? Do you wash your own as most business and college girls do?
4. Do you adjust your stockings straight at the back seam without wrinkles at the ankles?
5. Are they neatly mended, if necessary?
6. Is your hat clean and well brushed?

1. Is your jewelry clean?
2. Are your gloves clean?
3. Are they neatly mended, if necessary?
4. Is your purse clean and in good condition?
5. Are your handkerchief, powder puff, and comb clean?
6. Are they kept out of sight?

1. Is your slip the right length for your dress?
2. Do your shoulder straps show?
3. Are your undergarments clean? That is, do you change them three or four times a week?

Health routines.
1. Do you get out in the sunlight every day?
2. Do you walk enough daily to stimulate circulation?
3. Do you play games once or twice a week hard enough to cause perspiration? And follow it with a cleansing bath?
4. Are you interested in acquiring a natural “peaches and cream” complexion from outdoor life, exposure to sun and wind, vigorous games, and adequate sleep?
5. Do you drink six to eight glasses of water daily? Have daily elimination?
6. Can you find among your friends those in whom good health practices are the cause of their natural attractiveness and good spirits?
7. What health practices can you add to the routines here suggested to increase personal fitness and wholesome attractiveness?

Mental health and personal appearance.
1. Do you consistently maintain a friendly attitude toward others? A person friendly to others never lacks friends.
2. Do you harbor resentments or quickly forget them? Do you allow yourself to be easily provoked and continue to feel put out? “A good forgetter of trifling disappointments is a good looker.”
3. Have you a complaining voice and unpleasant ways at home? Cosmetics will not cover faults that pull down the corners of your mouth and put crow’s feet around your eyes.
4. Whatever your religious faith, do you maintain a daily contact with the spiritual resources of life:
By reading something inspiring and worthwhile?
By reflecting on the widening of helpful relationships in your own town, nation, and the world and what you can do to enlarge the rule of good will at home, in business, and between nations?
5. Do you subscribe to the friendly code:
“Come on, let’s live and let’s help others to live, with richer lives, wider interests, fuller opportunities, for young and old, rich and poor, American and foreigner!” If you do, then you will have a personality worth grooming a bit in private; but after grooming in private, forget the art and go out with a friendly smile. The world has a place for every such person!

Source: Van Duzer, Adelaide Laura, et. al. Everyday Living for Girls. Chicago: J. B. Lippincott Company,1936.
~ p. 108-10 ~