Lillian Moller Gilbreth: Wikis


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Lillian Moller Gilbreth

Gilbreth in 1921
Born Lillian Evelyn Moller
May 24, 1878(1878-05-24)
Oakland, California
Died January 2, 1972 (aged 93)
Phoenix, Arizona
Education University of California, Berkeley, BA (1900), MA (1902); Brown University, PhD (1915).
Spouse(s) Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr. (1868–1924(Deceased))
Children Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr., et al.

Lillian Moller Gilbreth, PhD, (May 24, 1878 – January 2, 1972) was one of the first working female engineers holding a PhD. She was born in Oakland, California to William and Anne (née Delger) Moller.

She is arguably the first true industrial/organizational psychologist. She and her husband Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr. were pioneers in the field of industrial engineering. Their interest in time and motion study may have had something to do with the fact that they had an extremely large family. The books Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes, written by their children Ernestine and Frank Jr., are the story of their family life with their twelve children.

She served as an advisor to Presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson on matters of civil defense, war production and rehabilitation of the physically handicapped.

She and husband Frank have a permanent exhibit in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and her portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.



She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a BA (1900) and MA (1902)[1][2]. Lillian completed her dissertation to obtain her Ph.D from the University of California, but did not receive the degree because she was not able to complete the residency requirements. Her dissertation was titled The Psychology of Management. She later earned a Ph.D from Brown University in 1915, having written a dissertation. It was the first degree granted in industrial psychology. She also received 22 honorary degrees from such schools as Princeton University, Brown University, and the University of Michigan.


In her work, Lillian Gilbreth combined the perspectives of an engineer, a psychologist, a wife, and a mother; she helped industrial engineers see the importance of the psychological dimensions of work. She became the first American engineer ever to combine a synthesis of psychology and scientific management. She and her husband were certain that the revolutionary ideas of Frederick Winslow Taylor, as Taylor formulated them, would be neither easy to implement nor sufficient; their implementation would require hard work by both engineers and psychologists to make them successful. Both Lillian and Frank Gilbreth believed that scientific management as formulated by Taylor fell short when it came to managing the human element on the shop floor.[3] The Gilbreths helped formulate a constructive critique of Taylorism; this critique had the support of other successful managers.[4]

On top of having twelve children, writing books, helping companies with their management skills, managing women consumers, Lillian was instrumental in the design of a desk, that she designed in 1933 in cooperation with IBM for display at the Chicago World’s Fair. [3]


Management Theory

Lillian Gilbreth's work focused on inefficiency and waste - not only the waste of time and motion but also the waste of potential human satisfaction and fulfillment that could be derived from work. She believed that poorly planned jobs made work tiresome and destroyed enjoyment of the task. Her theory was that managers and owners needed to structure authority in the workplace and that each employee deserved basic human dignity. In The Psychology of Management, she argued that psychology could and should become part of scientific management. [3]

One of her studies is motion, which could “make visible the invisible.” “The Gilbreths state that work is made up of an infinite number of cycles-molecules-and that each cycle should in itself be made up of correct minute parts of the cycle-therbligs-atoms, otherwise there is lost motion or waste". Lillian Gilbreth, unlike Taylor, brought human elements to industrial engineering. She believed that satisfaction comes from using one’s skills, that standardized work could also be skilled work. [3]

Work for Companies

Her most obvious work included the marketing research for Johnson & Johnson in 1926 and her work to improve women’s spending decisions during the first years of the Great Depression. She also helped many famous companies like Johnson & Johnson, and Macys, with the companies’ management departments. In 1926, when Johnson & Johnson hired Lillian Gilbreth as a consultant, the firm benefited in three ways. First, it could use her training as a psychologist in measuring and the analysis of attitudes and opinions. Second, it could give her the experience of an engineer who specializes in the interaction between bodies and material objects. Third, she would be a public image as a mother of 11 and a modern career woman to build consumer trust. While at Johnson & Johnson Gilbreth studied psychological effects of the outer packaging of sanitary napkins. [3]


It was through Lillian Gilbreth’s writing and speeches that she had her most direct impact on management. She wrote The Psychology of Management (1914), ISBN 1437522181, her unpublished doctoral dissertation, and Fatigue Study (1916). She wrote the index for Field System, she and her husband Frank together wrote his purportedly single-authored books Concrete System and Bricklaying System while their children were asleep (Gilbreth 1998). In. addition, she has written essays, Motion Study, Primer of Scientific Management, Applied Motion Study, and Motion Study for the Handicapped, Gilbreth contributed about 50 percent or higher. [3]


Lillian married Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr., on October 19, 1904, in Oakland, California. As planned, they became the parents of twelve children, eleven of whom lived to adulthood.[5][6]

The children of Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth were [7]:

Anne M. Gilbreth (September 9, 1905 – February 16, 1987) (age 81); married Robert E. Barney; three children (Peter, Frank, Robert).

Mary Elizabeth Gilbreth (December 13, 1906 – January 31, 1912); died of diphtheria at age 6.

Ernestine Gilbreth (April 4, 1908 – November 4, 2006) (age 98); married Charles E. Carey; two children (Charles E. Carey, Lillian Barley). [8]

Martha B. Gilbreth (November 5, 1909 – November 15, 1968) (age 59); married Richard E. Tallman; four children (Janet, Blair, Mary, Stephanie).

Frank Bunker Gilbreth (March 27, 1911 – February 18, 2001) (age 89); married 1): Elizabeth Cauthen (1934-1954) 2): Mary Pringle Manigault (1954-2001); three children (one from first marriage: Betsy; two from second marriage: Rebecca, Dr. Edward Gilbreth). [9]

William Gilbreth (December 18, 1912 – April 14, 1990) (age 77); married Jean Irvin; two children (Lillian, Bill Gilbreth).

Lillian M. Gilbreth jr. (June 17, 1914 – June 23, 2001) (age 87); married Donald Dodge Johnson; two children (Julia, Dodge).

Frederick M. Gilbreth (December 8, 1916; still living); married Jessie Tallman; three children (Susan Kaseler, Frank Gilbreth, John Gilbreth). [10][11]

Daniel B. Gilbreth (September 17, 1917 – June 13, 2006) (age 88); married Irene Jensen; three children (David Gilbreth, Danny Gilbreth, Peggy).

John M. Gilbreth (May 29, 1919 – December 25, 2002) (age 83); married Dorothy Girvan; three children (Peter Gilbreth, James Gilbreth, Deborah).

Robert M. Gilbreth (July 4, 1920 – July 24, 2007) (age 87); married Barbara Filer; two children (Ann Gilbreth Wilson, Roy D. Gilbreth) [12]

Jane M. Gilbreth (June 22, 1922 – January 10, 2006) (age 83); married George Paul Heppes; two children (Laurie, Paula).

Gilbreth, Inc.

Together she and her husband were partners in the management consulting firm of Gilbreth, Inc. which performed time and motion studies. Their children often took part in the experiments, and the family worked as a team.


She died on January 2, 1972 in Phoenix, Arizona.[13]


Gilbreth, sometimes called "The First Lady of Engineering," was the first woman elected into the National Academy of Engineering. She also held Professorships at Purdue University, The Newark College of Engineering (currently known as New Jersey Institute of Technology) and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

In 1984, the United States Postal Service issued a postage stamp in Gilbreth's honor[14], and she was lauded by the American Psychological Association as the first psychologist to be so commemorated. While psychologists Gary Brucato Jr. and John D. Hogan later questioned this claim, noting that John Dewey had appeared on an American stamp 17 years earlier, they also emphasized that Gilbreth was the first female psychologist to do so[15]. Moreover, a complete, international list of psychologists on stamps compliled by Psychology Historian Ludy T. Benjamin indicates that Gilbreth was only the second female psychologist commemorated by a postage stamp in all the world, preceded only by Maria Montessori in India in 1970 [16].


  1. ^ "Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Lillian Evelyn Gilbreth". Encyclopedia Britannica.  
  2. ^ Merry Maisel and Laura Smart. "Mother of Modern Management". San Diego Supercomputer Center.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f Graham, Laurel D. (1998). Managing On Her Own: Dr. Lillian Gilbreth and Women's Work in the Interwar Era. Norcross, GA, USA: Engineering & Management Press. ISBN 978-0-89806-185-7.  
  4. ^ Hartness, James (1912). The Human Factor in Works Management. New York and London: McGraw-Hill. p. 159 pages.   Republished by Hive Publishing Co (Hive management history series, no. 46) (ISBN 978-0879600471).
  5. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (February 20, 2001). "Frank Gilbreth Jr., 89, Author Of 'Cheaper by the Dozen'". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-09. "Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr., a journalist whose life-with-father memoir Cheaper by the Dozen became a best seller and a popular movie of the same title, died on Sunday in Charleston, S.C., where he had lived for the last 50 years. He was 89 and also had a home in Nantucket, Mass."  
  6. ^ Ferguson, David. "That Most Famous Dozen". The Quest, fall 2000 issue.
  7. ^ Gilbreth family tree
  8. ^ NY Times dated November 6 2006: Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, 98, Author of Childhood Memoir, Dies
  9. ^ The Gilbreth Network - In Memory: Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr.
  11. ^ Cheaper by the Dozen - The Dozen
  12. ^ Robert Moller Gilbreth
  13. ^ "Dr. Lillian Gilbreth Dies. Famous Mother.". Associated Press in New York Times. January 3, 1972. "The real-life mother in the book and movie. "Cheaper by the Dozen," Dr. Lillian Moller Gilbreth, died Sunday at a local nursing home. She was 93."  
  14. ^ "Women On Stamps - Publication 512". United States Postal Service. April 2003.  
  15. ^ Brucato, G. & Hogan, J.D. (1999, Spring). Psychologists on postage stamps. The General Psychologist, 34(1):65
  16. ^ Benjamin, L.T. (2003). Why Can't Psychology Get a Stamp? Journal of applied psychoanalytic studies. 5(4):443-454

Further reading

  • Gilbreth, Lillian, As I Remember: An Autobiography, Engineering & Management Press, 1998, ISBN 0-89806-186-5
  • Lancaster, Jane, Making Time: Lillian Moller Gilbreth, A Life Beyond "Cheaper by the Dozen", Northeastern University Press, 2004, ISBN 1-55553-612-3
  • Graham, Laurel D. 1994. "Critical Biography Without Subjects and Objects: An Encounter with Dr. Lillian Moller Gilbreth", The Sociological Quarterly 35:621–643.
  • Sullivan, Sherry. 1995. "Management's Unsung Theorist: An Examination of the Works of Lillian M. Gilbreth", Biography 18: 31–41.
  • Yost, Edna. 1943. "Lillian Moller Gilbreth", in American Women in Science. Philadelphia: Frederick A. Stokes.
  • Lancaster, Jane. "O Pioneer", Brown Alumni Monthly 96(5) February 1996. Biography

External links


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