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 ‘telephone’

Is it Forward for a Girl to Call a Boy?

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

brothers and sisters may teaseQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Is it forward for a girl to call a boy on the telephone just for the sake of conversation?


A Dear Jon:

The results are in, and it appears that us girls should call you boys only if there is a dire emergency. Well, maybe it isn’t that severe, but my advice to all young women out there is this: I wouldn’t fool around if I were you. Use that phone very carefully.

1956: If a Girl Must Telephone a Boy

In a poll of high-school boys more than two-thirds said that they do not like to have girls call them on the telephone. They feel that this is a boy’s privilege, and that a girl seems forward when she phones a boy. They furthermore report that their families tease them about the girls who call them up at home.

Yet there may be times when a girl really must call a boy with an urgent message, to give him an invitation, or to make a request that cannot wait until she next sees him. When such a call is necessary, the girl must be unusually careful to observe the expected telephone courtesies. She should protect both the boy and herself from embarrassment by keeping her call short, and not telephoning him too often.

Source: Duvall, Evelyn Millis. Facts of Life and Love for Teen-Agers. New York: Association Press, 1956.
~ p. 136 ~

1963: When Does a Girl Call a Boy?

Any time there’s a change of plans, any time she has important news, any time she wants to ask him to a party. But not just any time. A boy you see a great deal may ask you to call him now and then, but be wary: if you call often, young brothers and sisters may tease him about it; parents, possibly taught that girls never call boys, may be sharp-tongued about your excessive interest in their son. If this keeps up, girl may lose boy. You can also call a boy when he’s phoned and left a message for you to return his call. (That doesn’t happen often.)

Source: Haupt, Enid H. The Seventeen Book of Etiquette & Entertaining. New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1963.
~ p. 132 ~

Should Girls Ask Boys for Dates?

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

he has given signsShipley the Sheep, Dave the Gator, elk hunters in orange caps, and our favorite park ranger at Great Sand Dunes National Park. My, did I have fun while on vacation with my friends Molly and Liz. Our little “hen party” discussed many important topics while covering 1,700 miles of Western terrain. Among those: boys, sex, love, sex, lust, sex, boys… well, you get the point. Here’s one subject we touched upon, brought to you by Tom McGinnis’s 1968 A Girl’s Guide to Dating and Going Steady.

1968: Should Girls Ask Boys for Dates?

Fifteen, twenty or more years ago, there was one answer to this question ~ a resounding no. Most people believed that boys should always take the first step so that they could feel that they were choosing the girl. Probably boys still want to be the pursuers, although there is much evidence that they do not seem to be as firm about it today as they seemed to be in earlier times.

I say this mainly because of the telephone. At one time, a girl would not phone a boy for any reason, except perhaps to say she could not keep her date with him because of a serious emergency. Now, however, girls call boys for all kinds of reasons ~ to get her homework assignments, to find out a football schedule, to learn when the next glee club practice is. Such calls usually are not considered out of order.

Nor, in these times, should there be anything wrong with a girl asking a boy on a date if he has given signs that he likes her. However, in many places the custom of a girl’s coming right out and asking a boy for a date is still frowned upon deeply.

A main reason for feeling that the boy should ask the girl is that when a boy asks, he puts her in the position of doing him a favor if she accepts. That means that he is more likely to feel that he must behave toward her in a way which meets her approval. But when he instead of you makes the decision to say yes or no to a date, he is in a stronger position and may become bolder about necking than you consider desirable. If you tell him to stop, he may tell you that he will not do you the favor of accepting you the next time you want a date.

It is possible for girls to suggest dates without seeming to do so. In a way, you can have your cake (a date with a boy) while eating it too (being able to stop him if he tries to go to far). Some girls often ‘just happen’ to have tickets or invitations handy which they invite a boy to share with them. A friend may be giving a party and a girl asks a boy if he would care to go. She has some tickets for a movie or a football game and she wonders if he would like to attend with her. She knows that he is interested in rock and roll records and she and friends pool their new records and invite him and other boys to a listening party at her home. In all these cases, she invites the boy to do something he enjoys which she has just run across and wants to share with him. To ask a boy for a date in this indirect way does not seem to be difficult. Girls seem to be more and more successful at it.

Source: McGinnis, Tom. A Girl’s Guide to Dating and Going Steady. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, 1968.
~ pp. 107-108 ~

Be Courteous

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Hey kids, trying to figure out how to ask that cute girl out on a date? Follow this script and you’re sure to have success.she likes this invite

1967: Be Courteous

As you ask a girl for a date, you should indicate that you really want to go out with her. Courtesy is very important when asking, for if the girl finds you are not too courteous on the phone, she may assume you’re also discourteous on dates. A typical phone call for a date might be something like this:

MARY: Hello.

JIM: Hi, Mary, this is Jim Jones.

MARY: Hi, Jim, how are you?

JIM: Fine, thanks. Say, did you understand that problem in math today? I found it rather confusing.

MARY: I did too, but I eventually figured it out.

JIM: So did I. Say, Mary, Bob and Larry are taking Jean and Jane to the White Kar roller skating rink this Saturday ~ about seven o’clock. I’d like very much to take you, and we’d be home by ten. Would you like to go?

MARY: It sounds like fun! I’d love to go skating with you, Jim. I’ll expect you Saturday about seven.

JIM: Fine, see you then. Good-by, Mary.

MARY: Good-by.

This conversation was a great help to Mary. She knows everything she needs to know. Mary knows that Jim really wants to take her skating. She knows that she should dress casually, and that she should be ready by seven. She can tell her parents that she will be home by ten. This is the kind of invitation she likes to receive, because nothing is left up in the air. He told her who he was at once, instead of playing childish “Guess-who-this-is” games. No girl likes to admit that she doesn’t recognize a boy’s voice, yet many voices sound similar over the phone.

Mary’s parents like this approach too. They know just what they can expect without having to quiz Jim when he comes to pick her up for the date. They like to know where their daughter is going and with whom, but they hate to give a boy the third degree before a date ~ just as much as a boy hates to get it.

Jim also feels happy about this conversation. He knows that Mary will be dressed for skating, and that her parents understand about the arrangements. He can also tell his parents when to expect him home. Dates with arrangements agreed on ahead of time are more fun. You can look forward to your plans, rather than wonder what you’re going to do and whether you’ll be dressed appropriately.

Source: Duvall, Evelyn Millis. The Art of Dating. New York: Association Press, 1967.
~ pp. 76-77 ~

1941: If the Telephone Rings While You’re Away

Sunday, June 4th, 2006

I stumbled across this gem, which fall into the “my how things have changed” category of classic advice:

“If you wish to know if your telephone has rung during your absence, put a piece of paper and a piece of carbon paper between the clapper and the bell. A mark will be made on the paper if the bell has wrung.”


We have Janet D. Myers and her book 2002 Household Helps to thank for this. Originally published in 1933, my copy is from 1941. Although the first invention to record phone messages appeared as early as 1898, I suppose it’s doubtful that the 1935 version of the answering machine was in wide use when Ms. Myers reprinted her hints book.