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!



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 ~

10 Commandments for Wives and Husbands

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

a man is only a grown-up boyWhen I first read this excerpt from Edward Podolsky’s Sex Today in Wedded Life, I was disturbed, and quite pleased to be living in the modern times. The wife seems to have a lot more serious things to worry about! Her husband only has to remember her birthday and kiss her in public.

But as I sat down to type this page, I noticed some charming points to this simple list. Read #10 in the wives’ commandments very carefully ~ let him think he wears the pants?

1947: 10 Commandments for Wives

1 ~ Don’t bother your husband with petty troubles and complaints when he comes home from work.

2 ~ Be a good listener. Let him tell you his troubles; yours will seem trivial in comparison.

3 ~ Remember your most important job is to build up and maintain his ego (which gets bruised plenty in business). Morale is a woman’s business.

4 ~ Let him relax before dinner, and discuss family problems after the “inner man” has been satisfied.

5 ~ Always remember he’s a male and marital relations promote harmony. Have sane views about sex.

6 ~ No man likes a wife who is always tired out. Conserve your energy so you can give him the companionship he craves.

7 ~ Never hold up your husband to ridicule in the presence of others. If you must criticize, do so privately and without anger.

8 ~ Remember a man is only a grown-up boy. He needs mothering and enjoys it if not piled on too thick.

9 ~ Don’t live beyond your means, or add to your husband’s financial burdens.

10 ~ Don’t try to boss him around. Let him think he wears the pants.

10 Commandments for Husbands

1 ~ Remember your wife wants to be treated as your sweetheart always.

2 ~ Remember her birthdays and your wedding anniversaries.

3 ~ Bring her some gift every week, no matter how inexpensive it may be. (It’s not the price, it’s the thought.)

4 ~ Don’t take love for granted. Don’t “ration” your kisses. Being a woman, she wants you to woo her.

5 ~ Respect her privacy.

6 ~ Always be tender, kind and considerate even under trying circumstances.

7 ~ Don’t be stingy with money; be a generous provider.

8 ~ Compliment her new dress, “hair-do,” cooking, etc.

9 ~ Always greet her with a kiss, especially when other people are around.

10 ~ Remember marriage is a 50-50 proposition and you are not the majority stock holder.

Source: Podolsky, Edward. Sex Today in Wedded Life. New York: Simon Publications, Inc., 1947.
~ pp. 236-37 ~

How to Tell Whether You Are in Love

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

the gold and silver spangles of her imaginationThis week I focus on a topic very dear to me and my some of friends. Is it lust? Is it love? Or is it just a silly old crush? How about you and I ponder these questions, with the help of Dorothy Dix, in this excerpt from her book titled How to Win and Hold a Husband.

1939: How to Tell Whether You Are in Love

A girl does well to look into her emotions and try to determine whether they are the real, genuine, blown-in-the-bottle love or a spurious imitation. The first thing, of course, is for her to find out whether she is in love with some particular youth, or just in love with love, and this requires her to be not only a first-class psychoanalyst but a good guesser as well.

For from her cradle up every girl is on a still hunt for her Prince and so eager is she to find him that only too often she shuts her eyes and grabs the first boy who comes along. Over him she throws the magic cloak that she has embroidered with the gold and silver spangles of her imagination, and she is so enraptured with the result that she doesn’t know that it is her own handiwork she is adoring and not the thing in it. . . .

A man may have a physical attraction for a girl that makes her think that she is in love with him as long as he is with her. His touch thrills her. His kisses lay a spell upon her. His love-making hypnotizes her so completely that her mind and her judgement cease functioning. In his presence she does not notice that he does not belong to her class, that he is perhaps highly undesirable as a husband, that they have not the same interests, nor habits, nor ideals, nothing that will keep love alive after the physical appeal is gone. . . .

If you never weary of a man’s company, even when he talks about himself by the hour; if you can play games together without quarreling; if you can spend a rainy week end in the country without talking yourselves out and getting on each other’s nerves, then you may be sure that you have the love that is foolproof and will stand the wear and tear of matrimony.

Then if you are still in doubt whether or not you are in love with a man, concentrate on his faults and magnify them and see whether they outweigh his virtues as far as you are concerned. Consider whether or not his little personal peculiarities irritate you. Could you stand listening to his pet stories over and over again for the remainder of your life? Do you feel that you could take a never-ending heart-interest in the grocery trade? How about having to live with a man who carries his small change in a purse with a lock on it and who is a little closefisted? You like books and symphony concerts, while he never reads anything but the headlines in the newspapers and the comic strip and has a jazz taste in music. What about it?

If he bores you at times until you feel like screaming, and if you think that the first thing you will do after you marry him is going to be on the reformation side, you don’t really love him. There is no truer test of love than to love the faults of a dear one, and to think of them tenderly as being just amusing traits of individuality because they are his.

Source: Dix, Dorothy. How to Win and Hold a Husband. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1939.
~ pp. 8-13 ~

Ideal Love

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

love is beatiful and terribleIt might just be the weather, but I think that love is in the air! We are all searching for it . . .

1923: Ideal Love

Being in love is merely a physical state of exaltation; loving is the merging of the spirit which at its white heat has glorified the physical instinct for re-creating into a godlike beatitude of earth. Loving throbs with delight in the flesh; it thrills the spirit with reverence; it glorifies into beauty commonplace things; it draws nearer in sickness and sorrow, and is not the sport of change. When a woman loves truly she has the passion of the mistress, the selfless tenderness of the mother, the dignity and devotion of the wife. She is all fire and snow, all wile and frankness, all passion and reserve; she is authoritative and obedient ~ Queen and Child.

And a man ceases to be a brute, and becomes a God!

Love is beautiful and terrible ~ and vital. It gilds dark places, and turns stones into jewels. It is tender enough to be of the Angels, and warm enough to be of the Sun. Love is tangible. It means to be close ~ close ~ to be clasped ~ to be touching ~ to be One!

Of all the emotions which Human beings feel, love is the most divine.

It is the vital spark which makes Life, it is the expression of the soul. The lowest creatures, the worst characters, are raised when they love ~ because for the time it holds them under its sway they cease to be utterly selfish. Love is Nature’s glorious manifestation of the unconscious desire to re-create love’s likeness. It invests the mere animal instinct for species-preservation with all the beauties of the imagination. It is an essence beyond our sight, or hearing, or touch, which uplifts us.

Source: Glyn, Elinor. The Philosophy of Love. Auburn, N.Y.: The Authors’ Press, 1923.
~ pp. 11-12 ~

Directions for Sex

Monday, July 19th, 2010

satisfactory to one as to the otherQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Where can I find directions for sex?


A Dear Eddie:

Step one: Find and woo partner. Step two: Get hitched (you remember, only married people have sex). Step three: Get naked. Step four: Read something like C. B. Evans’s Man and Woman in Marriage ~ “a sound, comprehensive statement of normal sex problems and sex relations . . . a detailed exposition of the perfect expression of physical love” (see below for a sampling). Step five: Get it on.

1931: Intercourse

In looking back over the history of sex in marriage, one discovers that, from time to time, there have been changes in the fashion of having intercourse. To-day we have quite generally adopted a particular variety of the prone position which was not the vogue centuries ago. It is difficult to analyze the forces which have swayed whole nations into the popular belief that any particular method was the only correct or proper one.

A position should be selected which will be perfect for both man and wife. It cannot be expected that any one method will prove satisfactory to both. A man can buy a ready-made suit that will fit himself; a woman, a ready-made dress that will meet her requirements. How many can buy a ready-made garment, for instance, pyjamas, that will fit them both? A married couple should make-to-order their own particular position, building it upon definite principles, with the end in view of making it as satisfactory to one as to the other.

Source: Evans, C. B. S. Man and Woman in Marriage. Chicago: Bruce-Roberts, 1931.
~ pp. 104-5 ~

Please Please Me, Boyfriend

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

touch his armQ Dear Miss Abigail:

How can I get my boyfriend to hug or kiss me? He’s really sweet and cute. Please answer this!


A Dear Brittany:

Sounds like you need to take action, my dear! I have a feeling you don’t want to lean over yourself and just smooch your shy sweetie, so here are some fabulous tips from Ellen Peck’s How to Get a Teen-Age Boy and What To Do With Him When You Get Him. Her chapter on partygoing instructs young ladies such as yourself in the fine art of flirtation with the boy of your dreams, or perhaps just the boy of the evening. So happy signal-sending to you, Brittany. May it bring you all the hugs and kisses you desire.

1969: The Most Serious Flirtation

The most serious flirtation is physical. . . .

If it’s about time for lights out and you want to be in on the scene, here are a few other things you can do to make sure Neil stays with you instead of taking off in search of Sheila.

Take off something you’re wearing. I mean like an earring. And toss your hair back and rub your earlobe. Describe the lovely feeling of not having pinched ears any more. Or take off your wristwatch or bracelet and rub your wrist and mention how good that feels.

Tell him his shoulders look tense. (He’ll think you’re fantastically perceptive; but the truth is, it’s a safe bet. Nearly always, nearly everybody’s shoulders are tense.) And that it’s important to have relaxed shoulders. And to relax his shoulders he should move them in a circle ~ forward, then up, then back, then down. You demonstrate this, of course, because when your shoulders are back, your chest looks good.

He, of course, isn’t doing it quite right, so you can put your hands on his shoulders to show him how. Then you can tell him his shoulders are not only tense, they’re muscular.

How else physical contact?

Touch fingers when he hands you a drink. You shouldn’t be smoking, because research says you can die from it, but if you are, hold his hand when he lights your cigarette.

When you laugh at something he says, laugh from the torso as you bend over and touch his arm. Or if he’s said something serious, you can, wide-eyed, touch his arm as you say, ‘You don’tmean it!’ You can also touch his arm to signal a change in mood. Like, when you were talking to an unresponsive Neil a few minutes ago, you could have touched his arm lightly as you said, ‘OK, OK, I’ll be serious.’

Stand very close. Sit very close. (Not right against him; that’s being too obvious.) Look very intensely at him.

This is known, in popular parlance, as giving a guy the come-on.

And he nearly always does.

Source: Peck, Ellen. How to Get a Teen-Age Boy and What To Do With Him When You Get Him. New York: Bernard Geis Associates, 1969.
~ pp. 230-31 ~

Lures Men Can’t Resist

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

some men like wild girls ~ others prefer prim little Puritans“Her style is eminently readable, and she writes simply and sincerely, utterly without cheap sentimentality,” the flap copy says of Dorothy Dix, author of How to Win and Hold a Husband. This book includes such informative chapters as “What a Man Looks For in a Wife,” “It Pays to Be a Mystery,” and “The Cost of Free Love.” Maybe this is where those “Rules girls” got their inspiration.

1939: Lures Men Can’t Resist

We must not overlook those certain charms and wiles to which practically all men are susceptible. If you will cultivate these you will be fairly sure of never being dateless and of eventually making the grade to the altar with the youth of your choice. These are:

THE COME-HITHER LOOK IN THE EYE. A sort of come-on look, if you get what I mean. A look that subtly indicates to a man that a girl regards him as a great big wonderful sheik and that she is having the time of her life when gazing worshipfully up into his eyes.

No boy is going to see a girl a second time who high-hats him. No boy is go7ing to make love to a girl who is as unresponsive as a stone image. If there ever was a time when men ran after the women who flouted them it is out now. The modern man has to be lured into love. He doesn’t break in of his own accord.

PERSONALITY. Get a line. Have some individuality that will make you stand out from the crowd. Don’t copycat other girls. Be yourself. Be natural. Don’t pose. There is no other girl in the world less attractive to men than the affected one.

Remember that while some men like wild girls others prefer prim little Puritans; that while some men like chatterers others like the soft, silent, smiling Mona Lisa; and that while some men like girls who can mix cocktails most men want wives who can bake cakes like Mother used to make. So stick to your own line of attractions and put the loud pedal on that instead of trying to crab some other girl’s act.

THE FINE ART OF JOLLYING. Don’t feed men flattery in hunks, with a shovel. They resent this. But every man will eat out of your hand if it is filled with sugar. Don’t be a crude bungler and tell a man in so many words that he is God’s masterpiece. Get the idea across to him in other ways ~ by your air of adoration; by the awe with which you listen to his opinions; by the rapt expression on your face when you listen to him monologing along about himself.

Ask him why he has never gone into the pictures. Implore him to write to the President and tell him just how to settle the farm-relief problem and how to deal with the Japanese situation. No girl who is an A-1 incense burner ever lacks for dates.

ADAPTABILITY. Keep your mind as flexible as you do your waistline. A chameleon rampant, in the act of changing its colors, should be the heraldic device of every woman who wants to catch a husband and get along with him after she has got him. For in the adjusting of the sexes to each other it is a woman who must do the adjusting. Men can’t, or won’t, or don’t know how to do it.

So learn to be all things to all men. If a man is athletic play golf with him, no matter how your feet hurt you. If he is a radio hound hunt up new stations for him to tune in on. If he is bookish read up so you can discuss his favorite author with him. If he likes to eat cook him dainty dishes. Lend your ears to the man who likes to talk. Babble to the silent man who can never think of anything to say. Half of the time you will be bored to tears, but the other half of the time you will reap an exceedingly great reward.

EFFICIENCY. Learn how to do things. A girl may be as beautiful as a houri and a female Solomon in wisdom; she may have a heart of gold and a pocket full of money, and still she will be left high and dry socially if she has no parlor tricks. You have to be able to do what other people are doing and to fit into any picture in order to be invited to parties and to get any attention when you get there.

Men are selfish creatures and they will not ask you to step out with them unless you can work your passage by being entertaining. They will not ask you to dance if you step on their feet and have to be towed around like a barge. They will not play bridge with you if you trump their aces. They will not swim with you or play golf or tennis with you or bother with you at all unless you can take of yourself.

These are some of the ways to get your man. There are others, but these have the O.K. of thousands of successful husband-hunters.

Source: Dix, Dorothy. How to Win and Hold a Husband. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1939.
~ pp. 88-92 ~