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 ‘visitors’

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 ~

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 ~

Should Our New Neighbors Welcome Us?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

i should like to come to see youQ Dear Miss Abigail:

We recently purchased a home in a new subdivision. The only neighbor to come by so far to welcome us and introduced himself has been a young boy of seven. Since it’s been three weeks, I was thinking of taking the initiative and going to introduce myself. My husband thinks that the neighbors should welcome us.

New Neighbor

A Dear New Neighbor:

According to my source, the ever-proper Emily Post, there are some things you can do to help bridge the gap between you and your new neighbors (see part one of this answer). But further reading concludes that your husband is right about what your neighbors’ responsibilities are (see part two).

1937: Introduction By Means of a House of Charm ~ And a Puppy

The best possible advice is to take a house, no matter how little ~ in fact, the smaller it is the easier it is to make it look attractive. And that it shall look attractive is a vitally important point, since the personality of the house you live in is a far more telling introduction of you to your neighbors than anything short of a personal introduction by friends.

A house of charm says plainly that charming people live in it. If you are an ardent gardener ~ or can become one ~ nothing could be better, since gardening is a bond of sympathy between neighbors everywhere as well as an absorbing occupation.

Another unfailing friend-maker is a puppy ~ but not if you let it bark or slip through the fence and dig your neighbor’s lawn, or chase her chickens, or frighten her chickens, or frighten her baby. One thing you will probably have to leave to fate (or to your judgment of the character of the houses that you settle among), and that is the hope of finding your neighbors congenial, and the equal hope that they will find the same quality in you. . . .

How a First Visit is Made

In very large cities, neighbors seldom call on each other. But if strangers move into a neighborhood in a small town or in the country, or at a watering-place, it is not only unfriendly but uncivil for their neighbors not to call on them. The older residents always call on the newer. And the person of greatest social prominence should make the first visit, or at least invite the younger or less prominent one to call on her; which the younger should promptly do.

Or two ladies of equal age or position may either one say, “I wish you would come to see me.” To which the other replies “I’d love to.” More usually the first one offers “I should like to come to see you, if I may.” And the other, of course, answers “Oh, I do hope you will.”

Everyone invited to a wedding should call upon the bride on her return from the honeymoon. And when a man marries a girl from a distant place, courtesy absolutely demands that his friends and neighbors call on her as soon as she arrives in her new home. 

Source: Post, Emily. Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company,1937.
~ pp. 105-6, 124-25 ~

Hello? Anyone “At Home”?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

she is prepared by three o'clockQ Dear Miss Abigail:

What was the meaning of “at home” when visitors presented a calling card? Were some people at home to visitors on designated days?


A Dear Win:

You got it, babe. Here’s a little description of this long-forgotten tradition (hoorah for us). It’s from a book titled Correct Social Usage, which was published in 1907 by the New York Society of Self-Culture. Eighteen people contributed to this volume, including Ella Wheeler Wilcox and Margaret E. Sangster, authors of some of the other books in my collection.

1907: Receiving Calls

Ladies who receive their callers on one afternoon of each week or fortnight, keep what is now commonly known as a ‘Day at Home.’ The hostess should then be prepared to receive the first callers at three o’clock in the afternoon, or after four, or exactly according to the hour specified, if one is specified, on the cards she issues at the beginning of the season. Such cards are described in the chapter on Cards, page 213 [Sorry, Miss Abigail is not including this chapter here. It’s quite long!]. As a rule, the hour is not specified and the hostess may look for her very promptest callers a few moments after three and for her tardiest before half-past five. When a day at home is kept, the hostess usually prepares some light refreshment for her guests. . . .

The lady who keeps a regular day contents herself with the modest tea table beside her chair, and arrayed in a graceful high-necked, long-sleeved and slightly-trained house dress, she is prepared by three o’clock to greet her earliest callers. A hostess rises and steps forward to greet every caller, she offers her hand with cordial words of welcome and sees that the newcomer is comfortably seated near her and offered a cup of tea.

Source: New York Society of Self-Culture (18 authors). Correct Social Usage. New York: New York Society of Self-Culture, 1907.
~ pp. 191-92 ~