On this day in economic and business history…
The first official recognition of Mother’s Day occurred nearly a century ago, when on May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May would thereafter be a time to celebrate all things motherly. Dreamed up years earlier, the holiday gained legitimacy after Anna Jarvis mounted a spirited campaign to gain recognition, first as an American holiday and ultimately a global event. Jarvis also helped originate the tradition of giving and wearing carnation flowers on Mother’s Day, in honor of the mother she’d lost and hoped to commemorate.
Mother’s Day has since grown into one of the most heavily commercialized holidays on the calendar, and this process was so rapid and pronounced that it turned Jarvis herself against her own holiday. In our time, the National Retail Federation estimates that nearly $19 billion will be spent each Mother’s Day. Here’s where most of that money goes:
- $2.2 billion on flowers
- $1.6 billion on clothing and accessories
- $1.6 billion on electronics (give Mom a tablet this year)
- $3.4 billion on dining out
- $1.8 billion on gift cards
- $1.3 billion on personal services (spa treatments and the like)
Unfortunately, Hallmark is private, but United Online, Inc. (NASDAQ:UNTD), the owner of Florists’ Transworld Delivery, might be your best bet for investing in the Mother’s Day spending spree. If you really want to give Mom a gift that keeps on giving, look elsewhere — with the right dividend stock, she’ll be able to buy her own flowers each year, but shares of United Online, Inc. (NASDAQ:UNTD) have fallen 20% in the last five years.
The changing roles of mothers
Enovid, a drug originally designed to treat menstrual disorders, was first approved for use as an oral contraceptive by the FDA on May 9, 1961. It was the first time any drug could be prescribed for contraceptive use anywhere in the world. Developed and marketed by G.D. Searle (now a subsidiary of Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) ), Enovid (a combination of the estrogen compound mestranol and the progestogen compound norethynodrel) would also be approved for contraceptive use in the United Kingdom. The availability of this new drug on the market coincided with the early stirrings of the modern sexual revolution, and became one of the key turning points of the postwar era. Suzanne White Junod, FDA historian, later wrote:
One achievement appears on virtually every list of significant 20th-century accomplishments: the development and release of the contraceptive “Pill.” Once hailed as a medical cure-all for social and political ills the world over, the view of the Pill both as medicinal drug and as a social and political panacea now has been tempered. Nonetheless, society’s original optimism over the development of a successful oral contraceptive and its subsequent disillusionment have helped generate varying interpretations of the wisdom of the Pill’s original approval. Writers have implied that FDA was so swept up by international demand for curbing population growth and was so impressed with data showing that efficacy of an oral contraceptive, that it overlooked or compromised concerns about the safety of the drug. …
Safety and efficacy were inextricably intertwined in the risk/benefit equation for the Pill. In judging the safety of the first oral contraceptive, regulators were most concerned about its ability to prevent pregnancy because pregnancy and delivery were inherently medically risky. Had the drug been ineffective, or even less effective than mechanical contraceptives already available (condom and diaphragm), then its safety would have been difficult to establish. The Pill met the law’s safety requirement precisely because it was so effective.