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!

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Posts Tagged ‘menstruation’

Strange Beliefs About the Menses

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

the mysteries of menstruation are manyDr. Edward Podowsky’s Sex Today in Wedded Life was written “for the average man and woman,” in the guise of this fictional tale:

“This is the story of Mr. and Mrs. William Carter who, at the very beginning of their married life, sought and obtained sexual information which proved of the utmost value to them in their married life. . . . They had many questions to ask; and the doctor did his utmost to answer these questions adequately and in simple, easy-to-understand language.”

I think both men and women will find this very interesting. And if I can save just one woman from salting butter during that “special time” of the month, my life will be complete.

1947: Strange Beliefs About the Menses

‘Today,’ said Dr. Carlton, ‘I will tell you something about the menses, a very important physiological function of all women.

‘In the Assini region of West Africa there is a taboo which forbids mentruating women to cross the river, even in a canoe. We find a sort of vestige of this superstition in Europe. Breton seamen assured a traveler that a ship’s compass will not tolerate the proximity of a woman having her periods. When such a woman is nearby the magnetic needle becomes untrue.

‘It is reported that among the Arabs the ban on coitus during the menses is so strict that the law says: “The judicial testimony of a man who has cohabitated with his wife during her menstrual period will not be acceptable.”

‘The following belief is widespread in Belgium, both in Flemish and Walloon regions: “During the menstrual period a woman must not salt butter, make preserves of vegetable or jams, etc.” In the Bas-Maine district of France certain housekeepers, if they receive female visitors during the delicate processes of cooking quince jelly and learn that these visitors are menstruating will deliberately show them out. . . .

‘There have been all sorts of silly superstitions in regard to the monthly periods. First this periodic flow was attributed to the moon. Even when it was noted that in a great many women the menses did not coincide with the moon, the belief still persisted.

‘In all ages people have been pleased to ascribe malevolent properties to the menstrual blood. It is supposed to have occult, mysterious qualities which prevent the fermentation of bread and alcoholic beverages; or cause spoilage of meats, or disturb certain liquors. . . .

‘Menses may be replaced by vicarious bleeding; that is, bleeding that arises from other parts of the body. It is not uncommon for women to have their menses replaced by nose-bleeds. . . .

‘Dr. Barnes reports the case of a young woman who menstruated through her nipples. Dr. Lermoyez reports the curious case of a girl who menstruated through the right ear.

‘The mysteries of menstruation are many. Many unusual tales are connected with this normal monthly occurrence.

It is the first definite sign of sexual maturity in women and for this reason has given rise to many strange and unusual stories.’

Source: Podolsky, Edward. Sex Today in Wedded Life. New York: Simon Publications, Inc., 1947.
~ pp. 115, 118-20 ~

1956: Are you in the know?

Monday, November 19th, 2007

I’ve been meaning to share this with you for some time, and finally had a moment to spare to scan in some photos that I know you’ll just love. A little pamphlet titled Are you in the know? was given to me by my sweetie a few months back. Here’s how part of the introduction reads:

“Want to make a fast exit from the department of utter confusion — about fashions, grooming, etiquette — poise and boys? That’s why this booklet was born. To help you over the hump — to that super-smooth dream cloud reserved for schoolebrities in the know.”

Kimberly-Clark Corporation, of Kleenex and Kotex fame, were the publishers of this handy gem. The booklet accompanied an ad campaign, which is described over at the Museum of Menstruation.

For your giggling pleasure, I’ve scanned a few favorite pages in… click on them for a larger image.



If you like this, you’ll enjoy my friend Lynn Peril’s essay from years ago called Growing Up and Liking It, also posted at the MUM site.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

1967: Personal Products

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

Apologies for not posting lately, been a bit busy at work and with the social life. One of my recent activities has been planning my trip to Paris — I’m going for work but hopefully will have a little time to see the city. Already stressing about what to pack (I tend to overpack normally, but got a smaller suitcase this weekend so need to be good this time), I turned to a new book in my collection for help. There are plenty of packing tips in Frances Koltun’s Complete Book for the Intelligent Woman Traveler, published in 1967, but I thought this advice about “personal products” was more fun to share with you. After reading these, I bet you ladies will be glad times have changed just a bit since the 60s. I am, particularly when thinking about those sanitary towels.

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Even women who are normally level-headed about snakes, how much to tip a mahout or what to do for impetigo, find themselves at a loss about how much to pack in the way of personal products, the beauty industry’s euphemism for sanitary napkins, et al. I still remember a traveling companion on a trip to Europe who filled one of her two suitcases with boxes of Kotex because she was sure she’d never find any abroad.

Her apprehension belonged to the era of steamer trunks, motoring veils, and 10-day ocean crossings. Today, American products such as Kotex and Tampax are found in nearly every major country of the world. You have only to walk into a large, centrally located drugstore to find them. . . .

There are some local variations you may want to know about: In England, sanitary napkins are called sanitary towels, and have loops at either end. As these are exported to several countries in the world, you may run into them from time to time. In French, they’re called garnitures périodiques; in Spanish, they’re toallas sanitarias or higiénicas; in German, damenbinden; in Italian, assorbenti igienici; in Swedish, sanitets bindan; in Japanese seiritai. With these languages at your command, you can manage anywhere should an “English-speaking” pharmacy be unavailable, or should the chambermaid in your hotel not speak English. (If a sudden need arises, she’s the one to ring for.) . . .

If you’d like to start out armed with some sort of protection, Kotex puts out a box of individually wrapped napkins — eight for 39 cents — that’s fine for traveling. Or break up a larger box, wrap each napkin in Kleenex and stuff it into corners of your suitcase or among the layers of your underwear. Don’t be embarrassed or have nightmares about going through customs (which does happen to young women going abroad for the first time) with Kotex or Tampax in your luggage. You can be sure that the officials are thoroughly familiar with these products and won’t even give them a passing glance.