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 ‘travel’

A Map To Your Door

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

turn right at the red barnWelcome, guests, to Miss Abigail’s new home! I hope my directions were clear enough for you to get here from the old site. I tried to map it out without the help of my father or brother, but maybe that wasn’t so wise, according to this short blurb from Beatrice Pierce’s book entitled The Young Hostess.

1938: A Map To Your Door

Guests who come by automobile, especially to a house in the country, often need detailed information such as, “Turn right at the red barn, and left at the white church.” It is surprising how few hostesses are able to provide accurate instructions of this kind. If you are a hazy-minded girl, and if your house is hard to find, get your father or your brother, or someone who is clear on the subject, to draw a map or write out the directions for you.

Provided it is made accurately, a map is an extremely convenient thing to have. To be valuable it should be drawn with regard for the points of the compass, and the mileage between turns should be indicated. After a map has been drawn, copies may be reproduced at a small cost.

For those who live in the same country house every summer, endless writing and explaining are saved by having a supply of maps which the various members of the family enclose with their invitations.

Source: Pierce, Beatrice. The Young Hostess. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1938.
~ p. 212 ~

The Best Travelers

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

prepared for social emergenciesColorado here we come! My friends and I are hopping on a jet plane this weekend to enjoy the splendor that is Southwestern Colorado. And now that I’ve read the following from The Seventeen Book of Etiquette and Entertaining, written by Seventeen’s editor-in-chief Enid Haupt, I’m confident that we’ll be the best of the best.

1963: The Best Travelers

The best travelers are:

~ open minded ~ they love new places, new friends, new experiences

~ self-reliant ~ they know at least roughly how to get where they are going; they cope tearlessly with little travel tragedies, such as late arrivals and misplaced luggage

~ organized ~ they can always find their tickets; they look neat, and so do their suitcases

~ considerate ~ they are quiet; they don’t spread their belongings about on train seats which aren’t theirs; they don’t leave a trail of litter behind them

~ comfortably dressed ~ in wrinkle-resisting, easy-fitting clothes, in colors and patterns that don’t show smudges readily. They have a sweater handy for extra warmth, a raincoat that doubles as a topcoat. They wear shoes intended to be walked in.

~ pleasing to the eye ~ on buses, planes and trains, they dress tastefully, conservatively. Girls forego shorts or slacks in favor of a skirt; they choose an easy, wrinkle-resistant skirt when a long ride on a plane or sit-up train is in prospect. Young travelers of both sexes are prepared for social emergencies: a boy has a tie, a girl has some form of head covering ~ a scarf, net bonnet, packable hat ~ for quick compliance with the custom of a restaurant, a concert, a church, an unexpected party.

Source: Haupt, Enid H. The Seventeen Book of Etiquette & Entertaining. New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1963.
~ p. 102 ~

When You Are A Week-end Guest

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

do not take sides or give adviceAs we creep toward the holiday season, it is wise to think about how to act when we are guests in the homes of our friends and relatives. These tips are also handy for visiting those “special” boys and girls in our lives.

1963: When You Are A Week-end Guest

Only when the boy lives out of town do you ever consider spending the night or weekend at his home. Again never do you accept the invitation unless it comes by way of the boy’s mother or guardian and is relayed to your mother or guardian. An invitation to the boy to spend the weekend at your home calls for the same procedure ~ your mother or guardian phones or writes his mother or guardian.

Arrive at the Expected Time. If you are to be unavoidably delayed, advise your hostess.

The Gift. It is not a must. If you really want to arrive with a remembrance or to send one after your return home, it need not be expensive.

Participate in What Has Been Planned. You may not like baseball, but you go to the game because you are “game” for anything planned unless it be something that you know your parents would forbid, or is not in keeping with your own moral code.

Entertain Yourself. Never do we sit with a bored expression as if we were waiting for something to happen. Read, watch TV; in brief, occupy yourself. But do not become so engrossed in what you are doing as to suggest that you would not like to be disturbed.

Be Helpful. Keep your room in order, make your own bed, respect the furnishings of the home and offer to help with household chores. If there should be any differences (“lively discussions”) among members of the family, do not take sides or give advice.

Departure. We leave on the day we originally planned. We should tell our hostess this date upon our arrival. This gracious hostess will usually suggest that we extend our stay as the day approaches for us to leave, but the equally gracious guest will not accept the invitation unless, because of a special event planned, there is great insistence.

Thank You Note. The “thank you” note is written no later than forty-eight hours after we have returned home. 

Source: Culkin, Anne. Charm for Young Women. New York: Deus Books, 1963.
~ p. 104, 132-33 ~

Good Manners on the Road

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

are you blind?As a reminder to everybody on the road today, here’s a few tips about driving with manners (something a number of people have forgotten about). Please read the following, from a book by William A. Evans titled Everyday Safety. After you’ve done so, please, please be careful and try not to ram into my car. And I promise to be a courteous driver. Thank you.

1952: Good Manners on the Road

In our social and business relations we are taught to be polite, respectful, and courteous. No salesman can be successful by making his customers angry. No boy or girl can be popular if he or she is rude, overbearing, or discourteous. A young man who is wellbred will stand aside for a lady or another gentlemen to enter a doorway ahead of him. We would not think of stepping in front of another person on the sidewalk if there were any danger of bumping into that person. When we do have a collision, on foot, we apologize; we do not say, ‘What’s your name and address? Are you insured? Couldn’t you see me coming? Why didn’t you signal? Are you blind? Don’t you know how to walk?

Isn’t it possible for us to be just as courteous when we are driving as when we are walking? If you think not, what is the reason for your belief? Can’t we hesitate, or slow down, or even stop our cars, if necessary, in order to let another car pass safely? Can’t we stop or reduce our speed in order to give a pedestrian a chance to get out of the way without jumping for his life? Certainly we can do all of these things and more if we are able to control our cars and if we wishto control them. The modern motorcar is very responsive to the driver. With ‘finger tip steering,’ strong, quict-acting brakes, and easy-to-shift transmission gears, there is only one reason why a driver might be discourteous ~ his own carelessness and indifference to the rights and welfare of others. This fault each one of us must be careful to avoid.

Source: Evans, William A. Everyday Safety. Chicago: Lyons and Carnahan, 1952.
~ pp. 241-42 ~

City Driving Manners

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Cissy Chatter ~ Penny PrattleIn these crazy days of road rage and cellular phones, I thought it might be nice to bring you some advice from the esteemed Emily Post, all the way from 1945. I guess it is comforting to know that some things never change.

1945: City Driving Manners

When driving in the city, remember that discourtesy to pedestrians can turn out to be manslaughter. Don’t rush traffic lights. A gentlemen will no more “cheat the lights” than cheat at cards. Don’t fail, at a crossing where the lights have turned against you, to stop far enough back to be sure that you are not blocking the proper path of pedestrians crossing the street. Don’t, if you possibly can help it, run through puddles and splash pedestrians or other cars. Don’t almost run over someone who is trying to signal a bus or a trolley car when a little consideration requires only a few seconds. . . .

We are all made nervous by the driver who keeps looking out all the time, expatiating on the view and paying no attention to what is happening on the road. Or the one who turns around to talk to those on the back seat (who can’t hear what he says because they are so busy praying that the car will stay on the road). Or the one who carelessly lets go of the wheel while he lights a cigarette or screws the windshield up or down, meanwhile letting his car meander toward the ditch or else cut over toward the wrong side of the road.

Another bad-mannered driver is the one in a hurry. Among the thousands of motor accidents listed on the police blotters, at least half are said to be made by people who have not learned to discipline themselves to be on time. The driver, suddenly becoming conscious that he should have left home earlier, flings his good driving manners to the wind, starts weaving in and out of lines, clipping red lights, pushing his way, and taking chances which he would never take if he were not in a hurry!

Certain Bad Manners of Women Drivers

There are, of course, thousands of women drivers who are on every count first-class, but there are certain others who deserve all the criticism that can be given them. Among the worst of these should be put the window-shopper ~ she who crawls along a crowded thoroughfare with her gaze fastened upon the store windows. In a taxi, the other day, an army pilot followed close behind one of these for about twenty blocks. His taxi driver pointed her out. Said he, “Those window-shoppers are the worst we come up against! Why they don’t get killed is God’s mercy; they could never be saved merely by man. When I look ahead and see a woman driving her car with her head turned profile, I give her the widest berth I can.”

A not unfamiliar sight, in the smaller towns, are the stop-to-talkers who park by side and hold long conversations while other cars wait or maneuver their way past the blockade as best they can. There is no reason why Cissy Chatter may not talk to Penny Prattle as long as she chooses, but one of them must draw over close to the curb and wait. The other must park her car in a proper place and then come back to the first car and either stand on the sidewalk or get into the car.

Source: Post, Emily. Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company,1945.
~ pp. 584-85 ~

What to Do and What to Say When Paying Visits in Washington

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

mastery of the rank listIf you are anywhere near Washington, D.C. this week, you know that today, April 23, is “NATO day” ~ trillions of dignitaries and their cohorts are wandering my fair city (by limo, of course). We are so pleased to host their visit, particularly since a majority of federal workers, such as myself, were granted a day off due to security and traffic issues.

I thought it fitting to find some advice for our visitors. So, bless you, NATO, and please mind your manners while in town. We wouldn’t want Emily Post to scold you.

1937: What to Do and What to Say When Paying Visits in Washington

Excepting that you may be ~ unless prepared ~ at a loss to know how to address each official and foreigner, and excepting that precedence is a thing that must never be lost sight of, you behave in diplomatic and official circles as you behave in ‘best society’ everywhere. A man calling upon an ambassador or a minister askes the door if ‘His Excellency’ is at home; but a lady going to see his wife asks if ‘Madame Telque’ or ‘Lady Overseas’ or ‘Countess Thatone’ is at home. Upon being told that she is, the visitor lays her cards ~ one of her own and two of her husband’s ~ upon the tray offered her and follows the servant to the drawing-room. Her hostess greets her and indicates where she is to sit. In New York a visitor would merely take any available seat, but in Washington a visitor should not, with others of higher rank present, sit upon the empty chair on the hostess’s right vacated perhaps by a departed ‘Ambassadress’ but find a place less obviously prominent.

For those who are at the very bottom or very near the top, it is comparatively easy to remember the rank of the almost none below or the equally few above, but for the wife of a new official of medium rank the strain upon her memory for faces and names duly classified is a heavy one. In fact, at first this mastery of the rank list seems to nearly everyone impossible. To some it remains impossible and they are social failures. To others, practise soon gains headway and memory gradually becomes perfect.

An invaluable aid if your memory is not especially good is to carry a book with an attached pencil ~ the whole so small that it can be cupped in the palm of your left hand, and whenever an unobserved chance comes, write quickly the names just heard; or later you can perhaps ask someone present what those you could not hear are. It is a good idea to add if possiblesomething to fix each one in memory:
‘Senator Brown, Montana: very tall, thin, gray beard, black eyes.’
‘Madame Jamand: wife of Finnish Minister, small, round, ash blond, pretty dimpled hands.’
‘Mrs. Mumford: wife of Congressman from New York, tall, thin, dark, wears glasses, nice smile.’

Then when you go home, you find where each belongs on the official list. After a little while your mind gets into the habit of classifying names with appearances. After that, if you have a ‘talent for people’ you elaborate your mere ‘identification’ to a ‘personality’ list.
‘Senator Brown: great love of justice. Convince him a thing is right, and he will stand by it through thick and thin.’
‘Madame Jamand: talks amusingly about people. But not too accurate in what she says,’ etc.

This last habit of testing and listing people’s traits of character is of greatest value to anyone in any branch of public life, not merely because you may some day want to convince the Senator, or to know whether what Madame told you is likely to prove true, but because the ability to read people comes only with just such practise. And the ability to remember names and faces and read the latter at the same time is the ability out of which the stepping stones to unlimited diplomatic and political heights are carved.

Source: Post, Emily. Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company,1937.
~ pp. 694-96 ~

In Flight

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

strangers are drawn to each otherA few friends of mine recently boarded a jet plane to Great Britain. While they are away, frolicking around the countryside, I’ve been reading a bit about travel etiquette. Here’s a snippet from a book recently acquired.

I’ve got the third printing of Etiquette in Public, published in 1924 and written by one of my favorite etiquette advisors, Lillian Eichler. Lillian’s advice is helpful, but I’m just wondering how those erring passengers managed to throw trash out of the plane in the first place.

1924: In Flight

On most of the large planes, passangers are given glassine envelopes containing cotton and chewing gum. The experienced traveler pads his ears with the cotton and chews the gum to adjust his ears and throat to higher altitude. This is one occasion when chewing gum is not frowned upon as a vulgarity!

While the plane is aloft, passengers may get up and move about ~ if they like ~ but they must not venture into parts of the plane where it is forbidden to go. For example, the pilots’ compartment is strictly tabu to passengers. So also is the mail and express compartment, which, on many planes, is directly behind the passenger cabin. Radio instruments and controls are usually located inside the pilots’ compartment; but sometimes space is given inside the cabin to a special radio room. Passengers must not enter this room nor touch any of the instruments. . . .

Passengers should not drop paper, matches, or anything else out of a plane. Such things should be given to the cabin attendant to dispose of.

The cabin of a plane is so small, the passengers in such close proximity, that any attempt to observe social formalities is quite out of the question. Nobody waits to be introduced ~ everybody talks to everybody else ~ strangers are drawn to each other by the common thrill of flying (it’s still new enough to be thrilling to most of us!).

Occasionally, however, there will be a person of great prominence aboard a passenger plane. Unless that person has requested otherwise, the hostess may make his presence known to the others. In that case it is proper to ask for an introduction; strangers should not address the distinguished one until the hostess has made the necessary introduction.

It is not customary to tip airplane hostesses. However, if a hostess has been especially kind and attentive and the passenger wishes to show his appreciation, he may have a small, impersonal gift such as a box of candy or an interesting new book mailed to her after the trip is over.

Source: Eichler, Lillian. Etiquette in Public. Hoboken, N.J.: R. B. Davis and Company, 1924.
~ p. 28-29 ~

Travel for Two

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

eat at some lovely spot along the way

Q Dear Miss Abigail:

My boyfriend wants me to go on a trip with him ~ just the two of us. Is it proper?

Stepping Out

A Dear Stepping:

Well, dear, I think it depends a lot on what sort of trip he’s planned and exactly how long he plans for you to be away. With this in mind, it is really up to you to decide if you are comfortable going on a trip for two. If you do decide to go, I hope the following excerpt from Everyday Living for Girls helps you with your journey.

1936: What Should You Know About Traveling?

Why travel? Almost everyone likes to travel. It is fascinating pleasure. It is one of the most desirable ways of spending leisure time. New scenes, new people, a different atmosphere; better perspective, lost worries, broader viewpoints, more mellowed understanding; because of these, travel truly re-creates one. There is no better agency of education than travel. It aids one in acquiring culture, with the attending qualities of poise and good taste.

Traveling by train. Train accomodations permit traveling by day coach or parlor car, or for the overnight trip, by Pullman car. Especially for long trips, it is advisable to buy your tickets in advance. The regular fare includes a seat in the day coach. There are additional charges for a chair in the parlor car, a berth, section, or drawing-room in the Pullman car.

The new streamlined trains promise continued popularity for this mode of traveling, and probably greater comfort, convenience, and speed. . . .

Traveling by private motor. If you are invited to go on a trip in a friend’s car, you should offer to pay your share. When several friends plan a trip together they should have a definite agreement about expenses. Though you pay for gasoline, oil, and other items of upkeep on the car, you will want to show your appreciation in some other way. Perhaps a gift for your hostess (something you know she especially likes) will be the thing. Perhaps you can manage a treat of a dinner, or you can take a lunch to eat at some lovely spot along the way.

You should always try to be an agreeable and pleasant traveling companion. If you are in the mood to enjoy the trip and alert to find interest and adventure in the passing scene, this adds to the enjoyment of others. Sportsmanship, the willingness to do what the rest want to do, a sense of humor, and the ability to tell a good story will help make everyone have a good time. Consideration for others, tact, thoughtfulness, lightheartedness, the doing of many little things make the way smooth.

Traveling by plane. Traveling by plane is the quickest means of travel. Plane travel is little more expensive than train travel, and it is prophesied that the airplane soon will be a very common transportation medium, both for pleasure and business.

Traveling by boat. Boat trips are memorable occasions, whether short ones on the Great Lakes and rivers, coastwise trips, or transatlantic voyages.

Dancing, games, carefree hours on deck, and new friends make such vacations most enjoyable. . . .

Relation to other passengers. Whether you travel by air, by rail, by road, or water, you should be well bred and considerate of your fellow passengers always. Your behavior should be the same whether you are going to the next town or across the continent. Do not occupy more space than that for which you have paid. Especially in a train, do not be noisy. If you wish to open a window, ask your seat companion and those near you if it is agreeable to them. If you eat anything, do it as neatly as you do at home.

If a man and woman are together on a train, the woman should precede the man down the aisle. He should open the window for her if she wishes. He should help her remove her coat and settle their luggage. On leaving the train, the man precedes the woman and helps her down the steps.

The unescorted woman of good breeding does not encourage acquaintance with strangers, either men or women. It is understandable that strangers sitting together in the train or diner will perhaps converse in an impersonal way; but one should never let conversation develop into personalities, nor tell one’s intimate life history to casual acquaintances.

One will not let a stranger pay for magazines, candy, sandwiches, or any such thing. A man may suggest that a woman eat lunch or dinner in the dining-car with him. The woman may refuse politely by saying that she is not yet ready. If his company is congenial, she may accept. However, she must pay for her own meal. The end of the journey should terminate the acquaintance. Common sense dictates prudence in contacts with

Source: Van Duzer, Adelaide Laura, et. al. Everyday Living for Girls. Chicago: J. B. Lippincott Company,1936.
~ pp. 434, 437-38, 441-42 ~

Hello from London!

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

I’m writing from London, here this week for a work conference and meetings at the British Library. Today’s my one free day off, so the musician and I are about to head out for a canal ride and market browsing, and maybe some other low-key sightseeing. I’ve been here before, once in high school (when I happened to end up in Harrods at the moment when it was bombed), and a few years back, when I had a column (keep reading on page 2 and 3) in the London Times Saturday magazine, I met my editor for lunch as I was heading through town to Scotland.

Anyway, it’s fun to be back although London (at least the street that the British Library is on), is quite busy, a bit overwhelming. I guess I’ve gotten used to the slower pace of D.C.

We’ve decided to avoid temptation and not travel over to Rochester where there’s apparently a fabulous used bookshop. A fan from the U.K. inquiring about Emily Post’s publishing history just turned me on to it but I’m afraid I’d end up carrying too many books home on the plane!

Incinerate your Maxi Pads with the Incinerette

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

While in Australia for a work trip in early April, a few of us meeting attendees took a couple of days after to hit the road up the coast back to Sydney for our flights home. While in a public restroom in Jervis Bay after a dolphin watch boat ride, I spotted this fantastic machinery, for incinerating sanitary napkins. Burn, baby, burn! Wish I could have seen it in action, but unfortunately it was all rusted…