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 ‘self confidence’

Unstick Me From Seventeen

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

she yields to the pressure of opinionQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I am seventeen years old and have hardly no experience with other kids my age. I am a girl but I feel so unfeminine and not pretty. It ruins everything when you’re stuck like this. What should I do?


A Dear Lolita:

Wow, Abigail, is that you? Oh, sorry, I thought you were me as a teenager speaking. You are not stuck, you are just seventeen. Things will get better. Personally, I had to wait until my thirties for things to really pick up, but it’s been worth the wait. I turned out okay, don’t you think? Here are some thoughts from our friends Evelyn and Sylvanus Duvall on growing up at your own pace. It’s from their 1962 book titled Sense and Nonsense About Sex.

1962: How Much Is Popularity Worth to You?

A considerable body of evidence indicates that the effort to be popular is overshadowing the real education and development girls need to become happy, creative women today. So much energy is put into getting into the social whirl that girls have little time or strength left for the study and reflection that are required to reach full maturity as persons.

Many a girl is trapped early in her teens into thinking that getting boys’ attention is the most important thing in life for her. She yields to the pressure of opinion that being popular with the fellows is necessary in order to feel adequate as a girl. She learns early in her high school career that getting into activities is one way to social success, and so she rushes from one thing to another in an effort to keep up with what she thinks is expected of her.

The girl who grows up at her own pace enjoys fellows and girls in her own way. She belongs only to those clubs that appeal to her; she associates with people she enjoys, regardless of whether they are ‘the big wheels’ or not. She may not have a date every Saturday night. She may prefer going to church Sunday evening to going out on the town. She isn’t afraid of studying and getting the grades that she merits. She doesn’t mind being ‘a nice kid’ because she knows deep within herself that being the most popular girl in high school may not be worth all it costs.

Many of the world’s greatest women were not particularly popular through their school days. They started out shy and retiring, seriously studying their lessons and slowly developing the talent within them. They didn’t try to force themselves into premature commitments or activities. But they laid foundations during their teens on which they could build through the years.

A parallel can be drawn from hothouse flowers forced to bloom in time for the holidays. Horticulturists have been able to bring lilies to market in time for Easter, poinsettias for the Christmas trade, mums for football games, and colorful displays in time for Mother’s Day. But although these flowers bloom in time for market, they rarely can be transplanted successfully into the home garden where they might thrive through the years.

Why should girls be forced into early blooming, and lose the chance to mature slowly for the rich full years that lie ahead of them as women, wives, mothers, and persons in the modern world?

Source: Duvall, Evelyn M. and Sylvanus M. Sense and Nonsense About Sex. New York: Association Press, 1962.
~ pp. 62-64 ~

One More Inch to Grow, and Counting

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

you cannot help being tall or shortQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I am eighteen years of age and my problem may seem very petty, but to me it is a great deal. My father is six feet tall and my mother is five feet and three inches. I am five feet nine inches tall, but it is very difficult for me to accept the fact that I may never reach my father’s height. I still have about six months to go until I turn nineteen, however, and I am going to try my very best to gain as much height as possible. My father suggests I swim, which I did and in the past and put on an inch in a month. My question is, do I still have a chance of at least putting on two more inches if I swim? I do not have that sense of inner satisfaction until I can get somewhere close to my father in height. It’s a burning desire within me to show him that I can still do it.

Thank you,

A Dear Sid:

Wow. Quite a dilemma you have there, young man. In my humble opinion ~ and I know I’m not your father, but you did come to me for advice after all ~ five feet nine seems awfully close to six feet. Please promise me that you’ll spare yourself the struggle to gain height and just be.

The following is from a 1950s health textbook titled You’re Growing Up.

1950: Accept Yourself

As your body grows and changes, so must your thoughts and feelings about yourself grow and change. Then you will be able to regard yourself as you really are – to accept yourself and to make the most of your personality. . .

Think over your own friends. Do you choose them because of their height and weight, or because they are friendly, interesting, and pleasant?

Look at the boys and girls who are liked in your school and in your neighborhood. You will find that this group includes both tall and short, slender and stocky. . .

You will discover that body build and success in life’s activities show no relationship. You cannot help being tall or short. But whether tall or short, it is possible for you to be happy, healthy, and successful in some undertaking of your choice.

Source: Shacter, Helen, Gladys Gardner Jenkins, and W. W. Bauer. You’re Growing Up. Chicago: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1950.
~ pp. 41, 44 ~

To 34B or Not to 34B

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

the fullness of womanhoodQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I’m a twelve-year-old girl who has started going through puberty. My breasts have been developing faster than most of the girls in my class. I’m already bigger than my mom. She told me that if I started wearing a bra now I would probably wear a size 34B. She thinks I should start wearing one now, but I don’t think so. What should I do?


A Dear Illana:

Listen to your mother, young lady! This is the perfect reason to have them around ~ who else is going to tell you to start strapping your boobs in? I remember the day my mom first took me bra shopping. I was horrified, but ultimately it was the best thing that could have happened. I was more comfortable, and so was everyone around me. In any case, this excerpt from Evelyn Millis Duvall’s Facts of Life and Love for Teen-Agers should help you think about all of these bosomly issues. Good luck!

1956: Breasts and Brassieres

Breast development is apparent quite early in the girl’s maturing. As her breasts become larger and fuller a girl is sometimes sensitive about such obvious signs of growing up. For a short time she may want to avoid tight dresses that reveal the new lines of her developing bust. Fashions that decree straight, boyish figures for women add to a girl’s self-consciousness about the full lines of a mature bosom. More normally, however, styles recognize and accent the natural form and figure of women. Fortunately many girls are proud of these signs of growing up and learn to wear clothes that enhance rather than play down the ripening lines of maturity. Some girls, impatient with the course of nature, add to the curves of the breasts by using what are popularly known as ‘falsies’ ~ rounded forms that fit over the breasts and make them appear rounder and fuller than they really are. If a girl is concerned about her breast development, she will do well to consult her doctor rather than resort too quickly and uneasily to makeshifts. Given time enough, nature usually endows a girl with the fullness of womanhood that is suitable for her.

Selecting brassieres that give some support without being uncomfortably binding is relatively easy these days. Bras come in many sizes, measured in inches around the largest circumference of the bust; for example, 30, 32, 34, 36, are popular sizes. The bra should fit snugly without feeling tight when a girl breaths, laughs, or bends over. The fullness of the breast is accomodated by varying cup sizes of brassieres. The A cup is for the small breast, the B cup for the medium full breast, the C cup for the full breast, and the D cup for the very rounded breast. Many fabrics and styles are available, from the sheerest nets and laces to the heavier cottons. Some uplift quality is usually desired. Easy washability is imperative. Straps which have a strip of elastic at front or back usually wear better, without pulling out, than those with fixed, inflexible ends. The same holds for the fastenings at the back. A piece of elastic at least an inch or two in length adds considerably to both the comfort and the wearing quality of the garment.

Source: Duvall, Evelyn Millis. Facts of Life and Love for Teen-Agers. New York: Association Press, 1956.
~ pp. 7-8 ~

Bust Worries

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

an inconsequential element in the total mosaic of traitsQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I have such small boobs they are hardly boobs! The thing is they are only starting to grow now and I just turned twelve years old and some of my grade six friends have bigger breasts than me and my close friend Mel has big boobs and we always have sleepovers and talk about boobs and do things with our bras but I only have a training bra. How long will it take them to get kinda full since they are really hurting right now? Thanx!


A Dear Jeanelle:

I hate to alarm you, but you’ve got plenty of years ahead of you to worry about the size and shape of your breasts. I can’t give you a specific time frame, though. Sorry. Perhaps you’ll be comforted to read the following from How to “Cash-In” On Your Worries, by George W. Crane. Now, could you explain what “things” you and Mel do with your bras on your sleepovers? Just curious.

1956: Don’t Worship Your Anatomy

‘Oh Dr. Crane, I am so mortified because I have such large breasts,’ other girls will tearfully exclaim. ‘Would it be safe for me to have a plastic surgeon remove part of my breasts?’

Yes, it is safe enough, but usually not warranted. Small breasts and full breasts are really an inconsequential element in the total mosaic of traits that comprise a charming personality. The chief trouble with girls who grow upset over a single physical feature, is their lack of proper perspective. They are like that Florida girl with the crossed eye whom I mentioned earlier. They are idolatrous, worshiping a narrow segment of their own anatomy.

Many girls with perfect anatomical busts are a perfect ‘bust’ on a date, so get wise to reality. Other girls with flat chests or very pendulous busts are popularity personified, with proposals of marriage by the dozen, and that is literally true!

If you repose such credulous belief in the magic of a normal bust, then you are almost sure to be disappointed, even if you resorted to plastic surgery. For that very yen to have the surgeon makes you popular, indicates you fail to see clearly what constitutes charming femininity.

A girl can be charming and popular though she has a leg removed or a breast amputated. Freckles and a pug nose and skinny legs or thick ankles and big hips, don’t exert more than a minor influence on your total rating as ‘date bait.’

A cheery smile and a ready compliment for your male companion can get you an engagement ring much faster than the most publicized Hollywood bust. If you still disbelieve me, just visit the Marriage License window at your county court house and watch the applicants thereat. There probably isn’t one Hollywood type of female among them per 1,000. Count ’em for yourself and see!

Source: Crane, George W. How to “Cash-In” On Your Worries. Chicago: Hopkins Syndicate, 1956.
~ pp. 146-47 ~

Color Me Offended

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

an indication of your personalityQ Dear Miss Abigail:

What the hell kind of logic is this “understanding and dating boys” [four-letter expletive beginning with sh and ending with t, deleted by the hostess so the children can keep reading]? Not everyone that is female enjoys the color pink. In fact, some prefer black. Assuming that girls like dresses and avoid tomboyishness is to show a sexist perception of the female gender. Thus placing girls and boys in stereotypical roles. What kind of help is a website designed to assist females in understanding males when the site generalizes a female view, eliminating the diversity of female emotions restricting any chance of helping females with male problems? Some females seek a relationship based upon mental and emotional interdependence. Why don’t you try to address issues that don’t involve “what to wear or say to make him love you” or “how to win him over” as considering true love would not need to alter in order to receive love. Thank you for making the female race sound like a gang of hopeless romantics, solely driven by a boy’s possibility for affection, and concerned with nothing more than thoughts of “how can I change myself to make him like me” or “what would HE like” opposed to what I would like. Not ALL of us are preoccupied with forgetting ourselves just to make a male happy, and we all don’t suffer from deluding ourselves from succeeding in obtaining unattainable goals at the end of our tunnel.

Two broad-minded individual strong-headed college gals

A Dear Gals:

Well, if you hate my site that much, you don’t have to visit it. It’s a big Internet out there ~ I wouldn’t be offended, really. But in my defense, I think you might want to read my About page to see what I’m actually doing here. And see another question, in which I tell the young lady to stay true to herself. Doesn’t that count?

Now onto the offensive, pointless advice geared toward leading young ladies astray. Here’s a little something from the 1929 book Lovely Ladies regarding one’s knowledge of one’s color. After reading a bit more of the chapter (too long to include here), I realized that yes ~ I am truly a PINK girl!

1929: Colors and You

Don’t you think that it is logical, since your life revolves around you, to begin with yourself? You see, you also have color in yourself ~ in your eyes, hair, and skin. These colors you are constantly presenting to the world, and you cannot possibly avoid doing so. Nor should you. You have heard of and seen people to whom the adjective ‘colorless’ has been applied. They are in fact and in personality colorless. If they knew about color what you are going to know, they would not only be colorful (and, what is more, correctly colorful) to others, but to themselves as well. And since there are actual physical and chemical reasons for your coloring, your particular coloring is indeed an indication of your personality.

Source: Dare, Frances. Lovely Ladies: The Art of Being a Woman, Vol. I. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1929.
~ pp. 124-25 ~

Be Yourself

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

stretch some of your ownQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I am seventeen and a girl. Unfortunately for me, so is my extremely pretty best friend. I’m a cute girl, but nowhere near Jen. All the guys fawn over her and I can’t help but feel inferior to her good looks. I know that I should flaunt what I have, but when next to her… what I have isn’t very much. How can I learn to like myself when I’m with (and without) her (and not make her wear a bag on her head everywhere we go)?

The Not-So Ugly Duckling

A Dear Not-So:

Author Kay Thomas says in the foreword to her book Secrets of Loveliness, that “not every girl can be beautiful. Beauty is a quality that a special few are born with. But loveliness, the aim of all women through the ages, can be acquired. The secrets of loveliness can be learned.” Remember the following when you think about that bag and your friend’s pretty little head.

1964: Be Yourself

Even though you’re trying to grow and develop and change (for the better!) always try to be yourself. Does this sound contradictory? It’s not, really. It just means: Don’t try to pretend you’re someone you’re not or haven’t yet become. It just means: Don’t pretend you’re rich if you’re poor, or sophisticated if you’re inexperienced, or dub if you’re smart ~ as some girls do in the mistaken idea that this kind of play-acting is a good way to gain friends or get dates. (Next time you hear that boys don’t like girls with brains, take a look at the girl who’s saying so. Is she by chance bright and unpopular, and looking for an excuse for her lack of dates?)

This kind of fake behavior creates a strain that gets in the way of the very friendship you’re trying to promote.

So be yourself. However, this doesn’t mean standing still. It does mean that instead of pretending to have someone else’s qualities, you could stretch some of your own. Instead of trying to act sophisticated, which you’re not, act more considerate, which you can be. In other words, be your best self.

Source: Thomas, Kay. Secrets of Loveliness. New York: Scholastic Book Services, 1969.
~ p. 13 ~

The Breath

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

fatal to friendship and to loveQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Sometimes I get self-conscious when talking to people because I have bad breath. It has lasted about three to four years now. I’m sixteen. Will I ever talk “carefree” again?


A Dear Viv:

According to Mrs. A. Walker in this excerpt from her book Female Beauty, you might want to think about consulting some kind of “medical man.” Take action soon ~ before all of your friends turn away, no longer willing to hear your carefree “whispers of confidence.” We certainly wouldn’t want that to happen!

1840: The Breath

Foul yellow teeth covered with tartar, are not only frightful to the sight, but communicate foetid effluvia to the breath, which is absolutely disgusting. Of all the antidotes to love, a foul breath is the most effectual; for, under the enchantment of a gracious smile, lies a mortifying and insuperable repulse.

No female can be too attentive, or take too much pains, in averting this dreadful calamity, for calamity it really is; the fond husband turns with ill-concealed loathing from the treacherous salute, and the friend who has listened to the whisper of confidence will not again submit herself to the infectious atmosphere. The feeling of disgust is destructive, alike fatal to friendship and to love.

Extreme attention to cleanliness of the teeth and mouth, a regular life, early hours, and wholesome food, can alone preserve the natural purity of the breath.

The Tongue, Throat, &c. In unhealthy persons, a kind of mucus sometimes exists upon the tongue, which ought to be removed, as it covers and destroys the delicacy of the papillae or little eminences which are the organs of taste, and must besides be offensive.

The throat should be gargled every morning with fresh water.

If the breath be in the slightest degree unpleasant, and there is a certainty that it does not arise from the teeth, it must originate from a disordered state of the stomach or of the lungs. Attention to the state of the digestive organs is indespensable in the first case; and the last requires generally the aid of a medical man.

Above all things, it must be remembered that the teeth cannot long continue sound if the diet be unwholesome or the digestion impaired.

It was a custom of the Grecian women, in order to improve this portion of their personal attractions, to hold a piece of myrtle between their teeth. The Roman ladies of our day have still a strong predilecation for the myrtle. But the use of masticatories is a bad practice; and the pure sweetness resulting from health and cleanliness is far more delightful than all the artificial perfumes of the medicinal gums.

Source: Walker, Mrs. A. Female Beauty, as Preserved and Improved by Regimen, Cleanliness and Dress. New York: Scofield and Voorhies, 1840.
~ pp. 199-201 ~

First Valentine to the Boy Wins!

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

the unexpected can be amusingQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Please help! There is this girl that I know who likes this boy that I also like. This Valentine’s Day I’m getting ready to tell him in his Valentine this, “I like you, will you be my Valentine?” Should I or should I not? I want to get my Valentine to him before she does so that I can be his girlfriend. What should I do about the Valentine problem?


A Dear Clueless:

I think if you spend a little time making a really super duper creative Valentine that says exactly what you feel, it doesn’t matter if your card is first or second to arrive in his locker. Just remain optimistic, and be enthusiastic about your next move, as this quote from Charm and Poise for Getting Ahead explains in a section describing how women can become popular. I’m sure that your boy will be very impressed with your efforts, and will choose you over that other girl any old day.

1967: Popularity, for Women

Be Enthusiastic. Life attracts life. Your enthusiasm will go out from you in ever widening circles to enchant those who come within its seductive power. Enliven your relationships by bringing in fresh fuel to the fire. If your social contacts have grown stale, introduce new and fascinating subjects. Plan new activities. Create an atmosphere of merriment. The unexpected can be amusing. Dress your days with gaiety so that later when you take them out of the closet of memories you can say, ‘This one was fun to wear.’

Be Optimistic. You only have to look at a small lichen clinging to a precipice to realize that life goes on under the most difficult circumstances. Everywhere you can see the marvelous manifestations of life’s goodness and abundance. There is enough love, beauty, harmony, for everyone. If you cut your finger, immediately all the forces of your body are brought into action to heal your finger and make it all well again. Mother Nature has given you many defenses against the onslaughts of outrageous fortune. She is not discouraged. She never says, ‘What’s the use.’ She obeys the laws of her being and is ever optimistic. We should not be less. To abandon ourselves to hopelessness is going against all the rules of Life.

Source: Ruth Tolman. Charm and Poise for Getting Ahead. Milady Publishing Co., 1967
~ p. 228 ~

Like Girl! Heart Beating Fast!

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

a new phase of friendshipQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I like a girl very much but I don’t know if she likes me or not. I dare not call her! Heart beating very fast!! I’m afraid of failure! Reply quick!


A Dear Vic:

Breathe in ~ breathe out. Breathe in ~ breathe out. OK, now that Vic has calmed down, let’s read a bit about getting that first date with the girl or boy of your fantasies. The following hints are from Living for Young Moderns, and was written by Irene E. McDermott and Florence W. Nicholas.

Your fears are not unique ~ this just happens to be the biggest problem many of you have, judging by all the email I get on this topic. And just think, all those kids back in the 1950s were having the very same troubles as you all. Have times changed? Not as much as we like to think.

1956: Hints on Getting a Date

One of the major problems in dating is how to get a date. Frequently it happens that a boy or a girl who has never had a date wants to have one for some special affair and does not know how to go about it. A teen-age boy and a teen-age girl express their problems related to getting a date in the following statements:

My personal problem is one girl. I would like to ask her for a date, but I don’t know if she likes me or not. Sometimes she acts as if she does and other times as if she doesn’t.

My only problem is about a boy I know. I would like to talk to him, but I do not know how to express myself. When I see him I do not know what to say or what to do, so I don’t know if he likes me or not.

It seems as if this boy and this girl are writing about each other; but such is not the case, for they live a long distance apart. Both of these teen-agers feel an unnecessary timidity and lack of self-confidence. If the boy had known how to ask for a date, he probably would have found that the girl would have accepted happily. In the case of the girl who did not know what to say or how to act, the situation might have been different if she could have seemed friendly to the boy.

Here are some general suggestions which should be helpful in getting a date:

1. Keep it clearly in your mind that dating is only a new phase of friendship. It is friendship between a boy and a girl. When a boy and a girl have their first date, it does not mean that they are “going steady,” that they will become engaged or marry. Most likely they will not. Both of them will have many other dates before they begin to consider a life partner.

2. Do not be disturbed by teasing about your girl friend or boy friend. Smile and be good-natured about it. The less embarrassed and upset you are, the sooner the teasing will stop.

3. Remember that experience in dating soon breaks down self-consciousness. After the first plunge, a boy will find it much easier to ask for a date; and a girl will find it easier to encourage a boy to ask her for a date.

4. Do not be “choosy” or supercritical in your selection of the person whom you wish to date. Many teen-agers seem to think that nothing less that a beauty queen or a prince charming is acceptable for their dates, and therefore miss a lot of good fun with less spectacular

Source: McDermott, Irene E. and Florence Nicholas. Living For Young Moderns. Chicago: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1956.
~ pp. 96-97 ~

Go Forth, Young Women, and Find Men

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

hardship accompanies every pioneering effortQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I am eighteen years old and have never had a boyfriend, not even a date. I haven’t even been kissed. Guys tell me I’m cute but don’t ask me out. I’m not the thinnest girl and I dont have the biggest breasts and I have glasses and I don’t dress sexy. So how do I attract a decent guy without going to a club. Also, I work a lot and don’t go out too much. Where are good places to meet a decent guy?

Girl that is boyfriendless

A Dear Girl:

Well, well, young lady. Seems like you should just give up all hope. Or, perhaps you prefer to think outside the box and take Nina Farewell’s advice, from this classic Every Girl is Entitled to a Husband (1963). Now granted, her statistics are from quite a few years ago, but something about this seems to ring true, don’t you agree?

1963: Do Not Remain Where Women Outnumber Men

Pack your suitcase (or your trunk) and Go! Run! Fly! Though it be painful to leave one’s home in a beautiful and exciting place like, let us say, Washington, D.C., to move to a remote backwater like, let us say, Lawton, Oklahoma, anyone who is serious about finding a husband will not permit sentiment or aesthetic considerations to hold her back.

Lawton is cited advisedly, for there you will find 100 males for every 71 females! (All sex ration figures given herein apply to population over the age of eighteen.) Our great capitol city, on the other hand, is so hopelessly undermanned, that if every bachelor inside its bounderies were forced to wed tomorrow, there would be tens of thousands of girls left without partners.

A deficiency of single men is the greatest evil that exists in our big cities. Even New York, queen of them all, rich and proud and peerless, has a meager supply, with only 88 males to every 100 females. This is a surprise to some people, who think that you can find everything in a large metropolis.

The census reports are full of surprises. One would hardly suspect for example, that the gigantic, virile state of Texas which seems the very synthesis of maleness, is more feminine than masculine in its population. Still, Texas has a kind of irresistible lure ~ no doubt because of all those oil wells ~ and the girl who really wants to go there should not be discouraged by the general picture. A perusal of the statistics (check and prove all figures, even mine, writing to the local Chamber of Commerce for verification) will reveal that individual places within the state have an excellent sex ration. . . .

A thorough investigation of the census is very rewarding. One should be acquainted with the figures on cities both near and far, including those of foreign lands. A girl with vision may see the wisdom of forsaking not only her State, but her Country, and even the Temperate Zone, in order to relocate where the sex ration is most favorable to her. . . .

Hardship accompanies every pioneering effort. Let us remember our heritage. Our forebears crossed an unfriendly ocean to settle in a wilderness; they froze and starved and forfeited their scalps in order to achieve their goal. Surely the daughters of such a people will not hesitate to uproot themselves to go in search of their heart’s desire.

Source: Farewell, Nina. Every Girl Is Entitled to a Husband. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company,1963.
~ pp. 42-46 ~