You should think twice about buying your mom that Fitbit she might not really want for Christmas. History says it’s a good idea.
In the early 1900s, female activists banded together to form SPUG, which stands for — seriously — the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving.
How did this happen?
- This was the era of progressivism — of Ida B. Wells and Upton Sinclair — and the practice of giving “knickknacks and bric-a-brac” was considered by SPUG members to be wasteful.
- They also spoke against workers having to pitch in to buy gifts for bosses.
“But, my girl friends,” SPUG co-founder Eleanor Robson Belmont said in a 1912 speech: “Is it not true that these evils do exist and that you must give many useless Christmas gifts simply because it is the custom?”
- Belmont was a famous actress. The other co-founder of SPUG was Anne Morgan, J.P. Morgan’s daughter. Teddy Roosevelt also joined.
- Spugs — yes, they were called Spugs — were often derided as Scrooges.
- Brands, obvi, still took advantage of the SPUG movement. A towel company ad suggested consumers “Be a ‘SPUG’” by buying its products.
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