Who is Miss Abigail?

Abigail Grotke
Silver Spring, MD
email: missabigail at missabigail dot com
twitter: @DearMissAbigail

Find me on…

Get the feed


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 ‘Health’

Don’t Blink Hard When You Blink

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

don't do that!This one just had to be shared. It’s from How to Improve Your Sight. It was written by Margaret Darst Corbett ~ “authorized instructor of the Bates Method’ ~ whatever that is.

1953: Don’t Blink Hard When You Blink

Check your eyelid habits. Many people do not blink enough. Failure to blink the eye stints the lubrication and the disinfecting value of the tears that the lids should spread quickly over the eyeball. When you close your eyes to think or to sleep, do you clamp the lids down tightly? Don’t do that! The eyes are not wild animals about to escape, but gentle, tired orbs that need the curtain lowered over the vision, softly, easily, loosely ~ and sigh while you do it. Your lids won’t loosen? . . . Add a blinking drill. If you tend to snap your eyes shut and open them with a jerk, practice light, feathery, flickery, quick, little blinks, not evenly and systematically timed, but irregularly, as the normal eye blinks; an animal or a baby can teach you how.

Source: Corbett, Margaret Darst. How to Improve Your Sight. New York: Bonanza Books, 1953.
~ pp. 23-24 ~

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 ~

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 ~

Eye Exercises

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

with this breathe naturallyMy eyes, my eyes, my aching eyes. This week has been particularly tiresome on them for some reason, so I did a bit of reading to help those babies out. The following tips are from Helena Rubinstein’s The Art of Feminine Beauty. I don’t know about you, but I feel better already.

1930: Eye Exercises

Either sitting or standing, fix your gaze on some center, level with your eyes, then look straight up as if you were trying to see the top of your head, and back again to center. As you do this inhale, hold a second, and exhale. Do this six times.

Look down as if you were trying to see under your chin, and back to center. Inhale, hold, exhale. Six times.

Cast the eyes obliquely up to the right and then down to the left, twice, and back to center.

Reverse, moving the eyes obliquely up to the left and down to right. Twice.

Roll the eyes all the way around from right to left, and then from left to right. Draw in a deep breath before commencing and hold it while you roll the eyes. Start with twice around on the one breath and then try gradually to increase the number of times you can roll the eyes while holding your breath.

Fix your eyes on a large piece of furniture, or a wall space, and let your gaze travel very, very slowly around the circumference, as if it were a fly crawling on the edge. With this breathe naturally. This is good for relaxation but its efficacy depends on it being done slowly.

In conclusion let me say that the vision is very dependable upon the general health, a proof of which is that a person may have normal vision at one time and not at another. It is dependent upon the kind of food you eat. Clogging up the system with poisons sends an impure or impoverished blood stream to the eyes, and this blurs the vision.

Source: Rubinstein, Helena. The Art of Feminine Beauty. New York: Horace Liveright, 1930.
~ pp. 59-60 ~

Useless Tensions and Busy Girls Don’t Mix!

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

disturb the mental stateQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I have this really difficult boyfriend. I am involved in a lot of different things at school and sometimes I don’t have a lot of free time on my hands. I also have a job. My boyfriend is always complaining that I never spend enough time with him. I also have really strict parents who continually check to see that I have good grades. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed and then my boyfriend calls me and complains. It’s so hard to deal with. I don’t want to quit any of my clubs or my job and I don’t want my grades to slip, but I really can’t deal with the pressure from my boyfriend. What should I do? How can I make time for him, my activities, and myself?


A Dear Kimberly:

Have you considered Yoga? It’s working wonders for stress in my life these days. But alas, you probably don’t have time for something like that, particularly when you’re trying to trim down your schedule.

The following is from Questions Girls Have Asked, and may provide you with some information about wasteful energies that drag folks down. Although it speaks to exercise and work, I think we can apply some of the concepts to your problem. Of course, you’re on your own to determine what your “useless tension” is, but it sounds to me like you’ve already figured that out.

1963: Get Rid of Useless Tension

Get rid of useless tension that wastes energy. Probably the most common cause of futile energy loss is in emotional states. For example: The amount of energy used by a person in the doing of a piece of work is dependent in a great degree upon his peace of mind. Work that is distasteful, disagreeable, or just boring takes more energy than the same work if pleasing and interesting. (1) Strange as it may seem, brain work of itself requires no energy. Only as the associated work of a pencil or typewriter brings muscles into play, or some strain of position or posture prevents complete muscle rest, does mental effort draw on energy store. (2) But let an element of fear, displeasure, or hurry disturb the mental state, and tension increases in the whole body; every muscle is affected, and there is added energy output, energy used to no purpose. (3) The thinking one does while walking or gardening requires no extra energy. The mental activity that accompanies physical work may be very relaxing.

The exercise value of physical work may be greatly lessened by an associated emotional disturbance. A muscle may be able to work, yet be unable to let go and rest between contractions. What a waste! Much greater energy is expended, but useful work is not increased. The result is exhaustion and excessive fatigue.

Source: Wood-Comstack, Belle. Questions Girls Have Asked. Southern Publishing Association, 1963.
~ pp. 140-41 ~

Overdoing Things

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

it is a folly and a sinPlease forgive me for presenting such a brief selection, but I’ve been awfully busy lately. This one is from Gladys Cox’s book titled Youth, Sex, and Life, I hope you ennnnjoyy iiit $)kdlj0J)djfo940zzzzzzzzzzz………

1946: Overdoing Things

There are degrees in overdoing things. If you faint at the end of some effort, or if you feel an overpowering desire for a doze, it must strike you that you have gone somewhat beyond your limit; but there are less obvious indications ~ slowing-up, a loss of ‘heart’ in the game, irritability, lassitude which is not healthy (and rather luxurious) tiredness, tiredness which lasts over the following day ~ all these are signs of excessive exertion. It may be that you are undertaking something which is beyond your strength; or it may be that your condition is not what it might be; or you may just have carried on too long.

Naturally, you will go ‘all out’ when you are committed to any sort of contest. There is something admirable ~ morally ~ in continuing to go all out when you are feeling ‘all in’; but physically it is a folly and a sin. You will be wise; therefore, to watch yourself and to make sure that whatever you undertake is well within your powers, and that you are trained up to a proper pitch for it.

Source: Cox, Gladys M. Youth, Sex, and Life. London: George Newnes Limited, 1946.
~ pp. 94-95 ~

Unify Your Energy

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

a sign on my mental doorThe following excerpt seems appropriate for my current state of mind. It’s been a rough week at work (yes, I have a day job), so I sought out some advice to help keep me in line and feeling good about things. It’s from Margery Wilson’s “complete book of charm” titled The Woman You Want to Be. Margery sure has helped me reorganize and unify my own energies.

1942: Unify Your Energy

Lillian Russell was very clever at arranging her life so that she had a minimum of harassing confusion and discord. When asked how she could keep her face so smooth in spite of all the problems of her life that she was unable to push aside she replied, ‘I have learned to draw down a blind that shuts out distracting sights and sounds, and I have put a sign on my mental door that reads ~ “Only the serene and the lovely can enter here.” A thousand voices call me away from my resolve but I have trained myself not to hear them. I hold myself together, not by straining against the winds of life, but by always sitting calmly in the center of the storm where there is no wind.’ In this way she gathered and held her forces.

You and I are very complex people. We share the heritage of the race in tangled backgrounds, transplanted emotions, and the battle of the higher and lower tendencies. The pressure of the demands made upon us by ourselves, life and other people tends to add to our confusion. And it is this inner and outer chaos that scatters our forces and weakens our personalities.

DON’T THROW YOURSELF AWAY. We are diffused. Part of our energy is going off in one direction and other desires or inner conflicts are wrenching parts of it away on other lines. Not that I am interested in having you save your energy! But I do want you to get it all together ~ see what it is composed of ~ and then use it for some fine purpose or accomplishment.

Those of us who are unnoticed, ineffective ~ and even those of us who should accomplish a great deal more than we do ~ fall below par because we permit the strength of our personalities to ‘leak away’ in unguarded waste!

You will stop these leaks and direct your unified energies into charming expression that is telling and effective.

Source: Wilson, Margery. The Woman You Want to Be. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1942.
~ pp. 30-31 ~


Saturday, August 14th, 2010

go with the windQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I am scared to show my body in front of a guy. How can I make myself more comfortable?


A Dear Cassidy:

I think this little excerpt from Margery Wilson’s “complete book of charm” (The Woman You Want to Be) says it all. And by the way, that “laughing at yourself” thing really works. Trust me. I’m just hilarious sometimes.

1942: Learn How to Relax

To clear the decks for better judgment in all matters, we take our first step toward poise by learning to relax.

Whatever may be the real self trying to express through flesh, fears, mental tangles, mannerisms and odd notions that make up the average human personality, our best approach to it is first through relaxation. Let go!

Relax so that your energies can flow together harmoniously. Relax so that your forces of mind and spirit can bring you your natural vitality ~ so that your body may become supple and graceful ~ and renewed by a free-flowing bloodstream. Relax so you may get a new mental picture of whatever is weighing on your mind, and poise will gradually replace confusion and tension.

LAUGH AWAY AWKWARDNESS. Things go a bit awkwardly at first ~ naturally one must become accustomed to thinking and planning in certain ways. But after a few repetitions your actions become automatic, which is what we really mean when we say ‘natural.’ And you really can have a great deal of fun. When you are awkward, laugh at yourself. Few of us laugh enough. Let’s not go after charm grimly, with determination. Think how funny you’d look with a set expression on your face while you said something intended to be tossed off airily. We should relax and just ‘go with the wind’ for a few days and see what happens. Make a high adventure of the conquest of charm.

Source: Wilson, Margery. The Woman You Want to Be. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1942.
~ pp. 31 ~


Saturday, August 14th, 2010

rest is neededI’m just back from a trip to California for a friend’s wedding, and the time change ~ while some may think nothing of it ~ has wiped me out. I’m exhausted! And my dream of lots of caffeine to help wake up was crushed when I broke my coffee pot this morning. Sheesh. Let’s hope the happily married couple Liz and Brian are doing better on their honeymoon. In the meantime, I’ve read the following, from Elements of Healthful Living, and have decided to go to bed immediately.

1942: Fatigue

The most striking effects of fatigue are upon the nervous system, where it produces irritability, nervousness, restlessness. Trifles become disturbing. Enthusiasm is gone; attention distracted; judgment warped. The whole world looks drab. The most amiable disposition is ruined by it. . . .

Caffeine has long been used as a stimulant to offset fatigue, and, except for the nervousness and insomnia which it causes in some persons, no known ill effect results from its use. The same cannot be said for the so-called ‘pep pills’ . . . these tablets are more powerful stimulants than caffeine but they make some persons so nervous and jittery that they are unable to sleep or do concentrated work for several days. A few serious toxic results have been reported from their use.

Clearly, the attempt to obtain relief from fatigue by drugs, either depressant or stimulating, is unsound. Fatigue is nature’s warning that rest is needed. To silence this warning signal or to whip one’s body along in spite of it can only lead to catastrophe.

Source: Diehl, Harold S. Elements of Healthful Living. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1942.
~ pp. 107, 08 ~


Saturday, August 14th, 2010

the habit of relaxation is worth cultivatingAs the warm summer sun beats down on the streets of Washington, D.C., I’ve been wondering more and more about why people jog all the time, when they could instead be relaxing in a hammock under a tree with a nice cool glass of lemonade in hand. And recently my work friends and I have been pondering deliciously the idea of taking an afternoon siesta. Wouldn’t life be much easier? Here are some thoughts on the fine art of resting, brought to you by Harold S. Diehl’s book titled Elements of Healthful Living.

For more on the same subject, you might also want to read Wisdom and Beauty in Rest (from 1902). Can you tell I just love this topic?

1942: Rest

Facilities for exercise abound on every hand. Every community has a gymnasium and its playground. Great national organizations, educational institutions, and even governments support athletic programs. But who ever heard of providing a place for rest and relaxation? The very suggestion seems fantastic. Yet how many weary, footsore people are crowded into the business districts of our cities every day? People for whom a few moments of relaxation would give life a different hue. People who need rest, not exercise.

Industries, studying the work records of employees throughout the day, find that efficiency declines toward the latter part of the morning, improves after lunch, and then declines again more rapidly in the afternoon. They find also that accidents are most frequent during the periods of accumulating fatigue; and that 15-minute rest periods in mid-morning and mid-afternoon result in increased efficiency which more than compensates for the time ‘wasted.’

Many individuals have made similar discoveries concerning their own well-being. The most famous surgeon in the world long made it an inviolate rule to have a 15- or 20-minute rest each day after lunch. No matter where he was or how pressed for time, he slipped away for a brief doze and returned refreshed. This practice of relaxation undoubtedly was an important factor in the maintenance of his health and vitality through many years of a strenuous and useful life.

The habit of relaxation is worth cultivating. A few minutes on a davenport or comfortable chair with the eyes closed, the mind at rest, and every muscle relaxed will do much to conserve physical and nervous energy. At first complete relaxation probably can be attained only for a few minutes at a time but this should be increased to at least 10 or 15 minutes once or twice a day.

The time may come when we shall have rest clubs as well as athletic clubs, but not yet. We are still too much inclined to boast of the small amount of rest on which we can get along. We still cling to the mad desire to get everything done in a day. To entice the average American to rest in the daytime one must camouflage the rest with mysterious measures such as light treatments, massage, or sun bathing. Possibly when as a nation we have grown up, we shall learn, as many of the old-world countries have learned, to take life more leisurely, to get a little more out of life as we go along, with a friendly chat and a cup of tea to break the tension of the day.

Source: Diehl, Harold S. Elements of Healthful Living. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1942.
~ pp. 109-110 ~