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 ‘summer’

Prostration by Heat (1931)

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog as of late. I’ve been posting over on Facebook and Twitter (the lazy blogger’s way of staying connected). The big news since I last updated here is that the Off-Broadway show that was loosely based on my book, has closed as of the end of June. It had a good long run! And the show is still playing in the Czech Republic, so that’s pretty cool. It’s also available for others to buy up the subsidiary rights.

The other news has been the crazy weather in the D.C. area this week. Between the derecho and power and cable and internet and phone outages and extreme hot temps, I think we’ve had about enough excitement. We didn’t quite hit the goal of the all-time-record of 106° yesterday here in the D.C. area, but that’s okay by me.

Besides napping yesterday and keeping cool, I spent some indoor time adding to my LibraryThing catalog. I have a backlog of books to include (at least a few hundred more), plus recent editions, like a huge tome called Domestic Medical Practice: A Household Advisor in the Treatment of Diseases, Arranged for Family Use that I got an an estate sale for $1 (score!). This book has 1463 pages of text, fabulous images, and certificates of membership in the “Domestic Medical Society” (I suppose that after you’ve read the book, you are worthy).

Certificate of Membership

The following section, titled “Prostration by Heat,” seemed particularly fitting to share today:

"This may results not only from direct exposure to the sun’s rays, but it is liable to occur under any circumstances where a person is overheated, and is more frequent in a moist atmosphere than in a dry….

The attack may come on quite suddenly, or it may be preceded by quite severe pain in the head, great sense of heat, and thirst. It is said, there is often frequent desire to make water. The patient may fall suddenly, or may gradually succumb, after having suffered a time from headache, heat, and a great sense of fatigue. The symptoms vary. Commonly, however, the pulse is frequent, though weak, in which it differs from the pulse of apoplexy, where the pulse is slow and strong. The circumstances under which a person becomes unconscious must serve to a certain extent as a guide to the unprofessional observer as to its cause, and should a person becomes unconscious when in the hot sun, or while exerting himself violently in a very highly heated atmosphere, and at the same time the skin be found very hot indeed, it would be proper to act upon the supposition the the person was suffering from sunstroke, as it is called. The danger arises from the great elevate of temperature….

hot stuff

The patient may be laid on the ground or floor, or anywhere else, and all clothing removed from the neck and chest. Ice may be applied to the head, or water may be poured over the head and neck, and even the chest. Should medical aid be within easy reach, these measures will suffice until its arrival….

It should be remembered that sunstroke is a grave accident, and its treatment should not be trusted to domestic remedies, since it is impossible to so describe its symptoms or treatment, as to safely guide an unskilled person in caring for a difficult case….

A person who has a slight attack of sunstroke as manifested by headache, dizziness, and great heat, should under no circumstances, after having been relieved by cold water and rest, return at once to work, since he is liable to suffer again, even more severely than at first."

The above image, while it was in this book, didn’t technically go with this section, but I thought it was amusing!



Summer Icicles (1955)

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

teen-age glamorWhat else is there do to do on a sweltering summer day but to stay inside and blog about it? Here are some summertime tips from a book called Teen-Age Glamor, written by Adah Broadbent in 1955. These could come in handy on a day like today:

"When the sun is at its zenith, and the days are at their warmest, sunlight fashions and perfect grooming transform you into a summer charmer. This immaculately crisp and cool appearance is worth capturing, so make it yours.

Never, never gasp and sigh about the heat. When the others do ~ and they will ~ you talk about something else. Any yen for arguments is controlled. Why cause your circulation to hurry?

Don’t slump, don’t collapse like a broken accordion in the nearest swing. No one is interested in seeing you go to pieces except Dennis the Menace. Swing, and sip your iced drinks, but there’s sugar in those; the more calories, the more heat your body generates. Icy drinks also interfere with the body’s normal temperature-regulating action. Cold drinks poured incessantly into your stomach are dangerous.

Eat and chatter, but don’t lie around in that swing all day while the others groan, “It’s too hot to lift an eyelash.” Get up and move around and you are cooler.

Summertime fun

Doing things in hot weather make staying dainty a problem. Bathe and shower more often;  a lukewarm shower leaves you cooler than a cold one, which increases the circulation. Pat, don’t rub dry, sprinkle talcum here and there, or spray refreshing cologne over yourself with a lavish hand. These luxuries give that fresh-as-a-daisy feeling which you intend to keep ~ at least for awhile.

Anti-persperants and deodorants are your aids. The liquid kind seems to be the surest safeguard. Make it a habit to use an anti-persperant or deodorant every night, because if it is used in the daytime any moving about may start you perspiring, and the effectiveness is washed away.

Summer clothes are made from many different fabrics, all of them was like a breeze and some need no ironing. The coolest and airiest fabrics are voile, sheer handkerchief linen, breezy batiste, and eyelet cottons; let them be crisp, not clingy.

Some colors give a feeling of coolness, as an icy blue and a pale green. Poppy and nasturtium colors are flattering to many girls, but when the weather is muggy, as well as hot, use those colors seldom.

Here’s fun to you on hot sunny days!"


Stay cool, everyone! I’m headed to the pool to sip cool (but not too cold, drinks) this afternoon. I promise not to complain about the heat.







Summertime Hints

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Founded in 1868 by J. R. Watkins, the Watkins Company, as evidenced in their company history, was a pioneer in natural products to cure, clean, cook with, drink, and kill insects with.

Elaine Allen, Director of Home Economics at the company, put together the 1941 book Watkins Household Hints which I perused this morning to find some random handy hints to help make the last month of your summer even better!

Vacation Hints
Know the source of your drinking water and milk. If in doubt of its purity, boil the water. Never drink water from streams or wells. For a day’s outing, carry milk and water in a thermos bottle. When touring in Mexico and South America, all drinking water should be boiled or add chlorazine tablets to purify the water.

Exhale through the nose while under water and inhale through the mouth while swimming on the surface. This will maintain a positive air pressure in the nasal cavities, protecting the nose and ears from infection. Ear plugs or soft wool may be used in the ear.

Malaria and yellow fever are carried by certain kinds of mosquitoes. Use Watkins Fly Spray or Watkins Fly and Moth Spray freely when sitting on an unscreened porch, at picnics and outdoor gatherings. Kill young mosquitoes or wrigglers in pools, rain barrels, or where water collects, with Watkins Fly Spray. Pour a little of the liquid on the surface. Use household ammonia for mosquito bites and dust with Watkins Talcum.

Heat – Summer
Observe healthful living habits – sufficient sleep, daily baths, a well-selected and moderate diet, plenty of water, regular and thorough elimination. Eat less food in extremely hot weather. Eat crisp salads, green vegetables and fruit – leave the table a little hungry. Avoid hot drinks and alcoholic beverages, because they generate heat and increase discomfort. Iced tea is excellent. Exercise heats the body and should be taken in moderation, with frequent rest periods. Use a liberal amount of salt with food, unless your doctor has advised otherwise. Do not allow your thoughts to dwell on the heat, be calm, and keep out of the sun. A cloth wrung out of cold water and lightly covered with a piece of think cheesecloth will, if placed on the forehead, back of neck and over each wrist, reduce the temperature and induce sleep. Keep cloth cold, or use an ice bag.

Blueberry Stain
1. Use Watkins Spot Remover. Follow directions.
2. Sponge stain with lukewarm water. If stain remains, use a few drops of oxalic acid.
3. Rinse thoroughly.

Marshmallows and Wieners – To Roast
A wire corn popper is excellent for roasting wieners or marshmallows over an open fire. You can roast more at a time and the meat juice is not lost because of punctured skin.

The Summer Job Conundrum

Monday, August 30th, 2010

get the pleasure out of a thingQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I have recently been offered a summer job at an amusement park running a ride. I was really psyched to take it, so I could enjoy my summer in the sun. But just today my Dad told me that they are hiring summer help where he works. The problem is that I already agreed to take the ride job, which would be fun and easy and I’d get to spend time with friends. It only pays $5.50, though, and the job where dad works will pay at least double that. I really want to take the fun job, but should I sacrifice a fun summer and take the tough job to really clear a lot of bones, or what? If I take the fun job, how do I tell my dad that I’m not interested in the job he’s offering?


A Dear Andrew:

Ah, the age-old dilemma of taking a boring summer job versus a fun amusement park one. I feel your pain, and wish you luck as you figure out a way to tell your father you won’t be taking his job. How could you? I see no choice, particularly after reading this excerpt from Dorothy Dix’s How to Win and Hold a Husband. I know, I know, based on the book title it doesn’t sound like it would be relevant, but trust me. Enjoy your freedom and happiness now, for you’ve got plenty of time to be miserable in your later years, no doubt while working at a dreary desk job.

Hey, I have an idea ~ perhaps a free season pass to the park would help convince dear old dad that you’ve made the right decision?

1939: Enjoy What You Have Now

Most people miss all pleasure in what they have because their whole attention is focused on wanting something they haven’t got, and so they lose even the happiness they could have. Don’t make this mistake. If you have health exult in it. Realize you have something to give three cheers for every minute of the day. If you have youth rejoice in it. Those who are young really don’t need anything else. They are on their tiptoes already. If you have a wife or a husband whom you love, and if you have little children, be down on your knees thanking heaven for its best gifts.

It is pitiful to see strong young people throwing away the happiness they might just as well have because they are longing for automobiles or fine clothes or freedom from work or something equally silly that has nothing in the world to do with happiness. And it is still more pitiful to see mothers and fathers getting no pleasure out of their children. Worrying because they are tied down at home with babies, or because little Johnny is noisy, or the money has to be spent on having little Mary’s teeth fixed instead of on golf sticks or a new frock.

And lots of foolish people put off being happy to some future time. They are going to be happy when they get rich. They are going to travel when they are old. The husbands and wives are going to enjoy each other after the children are grown up. But you can’t postpone being happy. You’ve got to get the pleasure out of a thing now or never. And so those who have denied themselves every joy for the great splurge they intend to have when they are old find out that they have waited too long. They have lost their capacity for enjoyment.

Source: Dix, Dorothy. How to Win and Hold a Husband. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1939.
~ pp. 254-55 ~

Meals Out-of-Doors

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

know how to plan and prepareAh, summertime. Hooray for our Red, White, and Blue, and for the season of hot dogs, lemonade, and popsicles. Here’s a few tips about the fine art of eating outdoors, from Mary Lockwoods Matthews’ somewhat repetitive Elementary Home Economics.

1928: Meals Out-of-Doors

Most boys and girls like to go on picnics. A picnic lunch may consist entirely of cooked foods that are ready to serve, or part of the foods may be prepared at home and others cooked over a camp fire on the beach, in the woods, or wherever the picnic is to be held. When all the foods are to be prepared at home, they must be carried in suitable containers, so that they will be in good condition when it is time to serve them. Thermos bottles or jugs may be used for carrying hot cocoa, milk, water, or any other cold or hot drink, and bottles having a large mouth may be used for hot or cold foods. One may use a picnic basket equipped with knives, forks, spoons, plates, cups, and containers for various types of food. In some of these baskets there are compartments for ice, so arranged that foods may be kept cold. These baskets are quite elaborate, expensive, and heavy to carry, and often thermos bottles or jugs can be used for foods which must be kept hot or cold, while other foods may be packed as you would pack a school lunch. . . .

In planning a picnic it is important:

1. To plan a menu which requires few dishes for serving, and which does not contain cooked foods that are spoiled with standing or jarring.
2. To make a list of all utensils and dishes and of the amounts and kinds of foods needed, so that none will be forgotten.
3. To pack these so that foods will not be crushed or exposed to dust or flies, so that dishes will be kept free from dust and flies, and so that thermos bottles or other glass or china containers will not be broken.
4. To pack the lunch in such containers as can be conveniently carried or placed in the available space in an automobile. It is better to pack the lunch in several light-weight baskets or boxes when it must be carried some distance by hand.
5. To take several tea towels, hand towels, and cloths to be used for emergencies, or when clearing up after the meal. . . .

To plan and prepare a picnic lunch for a number of people requires considerable work, and many times picnics are not a popular pastime because of this fact. An easy way to arrange a picnic is to make the menu, estimating the amount of each food needed, then to assign to each person a certain amount of one food to be prepared. Each person may then take her own dishes and the one prepared food, and the work of preparation is not difficult. Often the menu for a picnic is too elaborate and makes the work of preparation too difficult. Since touring has become such an important pastime in this country, it is desirable for each girl to know how to plan and prepare a picnic lunch, and to cook out-of-doors.

Source: Matthews, Mary Lockwood. Elementary Home Economics. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company,1928.
~ pp. 173-74, 177-78 ~

May I Still Wear Velvet?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

this is the time for bright colorsQ Dear Miss Abigail:

When is the last possible date that wearing velvet is acceptable?

Desperate for an answer

A Dear Desperate:

This question just came in, and since it was marked “desperate,” as well as being a timely subject matter (thank goodness Spring is here!) I decided to answer it right away.

Though I don’t have a specific velvet cut-off date for you, here are some basic guidelines about seasonal clothing from one of my newly acquired books.

1969: Seasonal Items

You may be wondering how it is possible to wear some of the basic wardrobe items in the middle of the summer when the weather is so hot it would seem foolish to put on a velvet hat, for instance. The answer to this dilemma is to have a few strictly summer clothes. Just keep in mind that the less money you spend on these, the more you will have to spend on the other three seasons of the year.

Following is a list of seasonal items. Read them through. It may be that the ideas given do not apply in your area but, the advice is offered with a broad intent to make you appropriately dressed almost anywhere in the world.

Fabrics for Summertime Only

Linen and cotton are considered summertime fabrics. They might be designed to be worn for either daytime or evening in bright, festive, vacation colors. They will look dress-down with basic dress-down or summer dress-down accessories. They will look dress-up with fabric accessories dyed to match. Exception: Some cottons are dyed dark to be worn during the early fall season. Others are so colorful that they may be used to advantage around the Christmas Holiday season to add a gay note.

Summertime Accessories

Into this category will fall patent leather shoes and all other patent leather accessories. There are to be worn any time between Easter and Labor Day. This is one leather that cannot be mixed with any other. If one accessory is patent leather all other leather accessories should be patent.

Patent leather is dress-down and because it is shiny, it is to be worn with dull cottons. Straw hats and other straw accessories are to be worn only during the summer months. They are for daytime wear.

In some vacation resort areas it is proper to go without hosiery ~ a suntan taking their place. Bare foot sandals in metallic leathers are used for evening wear.

Shell or seed jewelry is used for both daytime and evening in colors to match or contrast.

A beautiful chiffon scarf may be all the wrap necessary to cover bare shoulders.

This is the time for bright colors, light-weight flowing fabrics ~ and romance.

Chiffon hats that are light as a breeze are more dress-up. However, they may be worn in the daytime as well as in the evening for party time occasions.

Fabrics for Wintertime Only

Some fabrics are so heavy that they would be worn only during the coldest months. Such a fabric is wool felt. Again, unless you have an unlimited clothing budget, it is wiser to collect clothes that can be worn throughout the various seasons.

Exception:A fine fur stole may be worn all year round. Never in man’s history has fashion been sacrificed for comfort. If you want to wear a lovely fur even thought the weather is too warm, go ahead.

Wintertime accessories

Woolly-knit headgear
Woolly mittens
Woolly scarves

Usually those accessories that are dress-up may be worn all year round.

Source: Tolman, Ruth. Charm and Poise for Getting Ahead. Bronx, NY: Milady Publishing Corporation, 1969.
~ pp. 157-58 ~


Thursday, August 12th, 2010

with the motion of a waveletI’m just back from a weekend trip to Nags Head, N.C., where I picked up some more books at a favorite shop on the Outer Banks. I also tested out a few of the tips listed here, from John Robert Powers and Mary Sue Miller’s Secrets of Charm. Well, ok, I didn’t really try these, but my friends and I looked pretty dang cute lounging on our towels nonetheless.

1954: Mermaidiana

There is more to looking like a Lorelei in a bathing suit than just having a good figure. As at no other time, the secret of allure is good posture.

A sprawl looks even gawkier when you wear bathing dress than when you wear evening dress. More of it shows! Good posture and a few special advices on sitting and lying beside the water’s edge provide every figure with mermaid enchantment.

Whenever you seat yourself on the ground, sand or grass, hold your back and head erect. Otherwise your spine curves and your shoulders droop to make a shambles of your figure that not even a winter coat could hide.

Take extra care about the pose of your legs. Never spread them. Placed straight out in front of you, close together with the ankles crossed, they will form an attractive, curving line. Or draw both forelegs around to the side, keeping the knees together, the ankles arched and the toes pointed.

Only the very young women who are slim as reeds can arrange their appendages in ‘tailor’ or ‘jackknife’ fashion and achieve anything but an aging pose.

When you want to stretch out supine to ‘tan’ or snooze, never crumple like a rag doll. To lie on your back, start from an erect sitting position with the legs stretched out in front of you and touching. Then lower your back, pressing it firmly against the ground and retract your abdomen. Relax the arms close in at your sides or cradle your head in your hands with the arms nested on the ground.

To tan the back, you naturally must turn over. There will be no unattractive turning if, pulled tall, you do this with the motion of a wavelet and not a storm-tossed sea. Pull out of a prone position by rolling over on your back and coming up to your original sitting position.

After a tryout at home, you will stand out to the beach as Neptune’s own favorite daughter!

Source: Powers, John Robert and Mary Sue Miller. Secrets of Charm. Philadelphia: John C. Winston Company, 1954.
~ pp. 111-12 ~