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 ‘housewife’

Housewives 101

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

the very centre of her beingQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Why did they have housewives in the olden days?


A Dear Mime:

I’ve often wondered the very same thing. Here’s a bit of guilt ~ oops, I mean advice ~ that should give you some insight into those wacky olden days. Richard A. Wells wrote it in 1891 for his book titled Manners Culture and Dress of the Best American Society.

1891: Avoid All Causes for Complaint

Never let your husband have cause to complain that you are more agreeable abroad than at home; nor permit him to see in you an object of admiration as respects your dress and manners, when in company, while you are negligent of both in the domestic circle. Many an unhappy marriage has been occasioned by neglect in these particulars. Nothing can be more senseless than the conduct of a young woman, who seeks to be admired in general society for her politeness and engaging manners, or skill in music, when, at the same time, she makes no effort to render her home attractive; and yet that home whether a palace or a cottage, is the very centre of her being ~ the nucleus around which her affections should resolve, and beyond which she has comparatively small concern.

Source: Wells, Richard A. Manners, Culture and Dress of the Best American Society. Springfield, Mass.: King, Richardson & Co., 1891.
~ p. 529 ~

Woman: Waster of Energy

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

combination human being and robotWith so much going on in my life these days, I don’t know how I’m keeping it all together. How did women juggle it all in the past? Peter Steincrohn reminded me in his book How to Stop Killing Yourself.

1950: Woman: Waster of Energy

There are career women who want to have two jobs ~ because they are ‘career women.’ After years as an essential part of a large store or other organization, after having made a success in the entertainment world, after having experienced the joys of teaching, such women naturally dislike to resign it all for the seemingly uninteresting work of keeping a husband happy and raising a family.

Even if ill health does not strike them down because of the double strain under which they live, they exist unhappy and frustrated. You can’t do two jobs half-well and be as happy as you would be doing one job efficiently. When you are in the kitchen, you are thinking of your office downtown. When you are detained at work, you are worrying about how Johnny is doing and how your husband is holding up on an empty stomach after a hard day’s work.

The woman who continues this kind of living cannot easily make a success of it unless she is a combination human being and robot. If you can afford it, if your husband is earning enough to support the family, take advantage of it. Your home is more important than any job or career you may have on the side. No matter how well you think you are doing, your children and your husband are being neglected. The result is a family that is not a happy unit.

I have known, and you have known, many women who have wakened too late to remedy what might have been a simple problem. The price they paid was too high for what they thought they got out of managing two jobs. The happiest women I have known have been those who were content with their destiny: that of mother and wife. Their home was their castle, their husband the king, the little children princes and princesses. For them such was happiness enough. There is nothing more satisfying than contentment. These women found it.

Those of you who are not holding down two jobs by necessity would be wise to take inventory. Sell your stock outside of the home. Put all your energies henceforth into the home. If this sounds like old-fashioned advice, no one knows better than I do that it is. I give it to you because I, as a doctor, know too well the heavy responsibilities of the housewife. Knowing them I realize the value of trying all shortcuts to efficiency. Many women wear themselves out necessarily; too many, however, kill themselves without need.

Source: Steincrohn, Peter J. How to Stop Killing Yourself. New York: Wilfred Funk, 1950.
~ pp. 212-13 ~