WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

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Lillian Moller Gilbreth (May 24, 1878 – January 2, 1972)

Posted September 05, 2007 9:25 AM by t-rex

Lillian Moller Gilbreth was an inventor, engineer, and industrial psychologist who was known as the "mother of modern management" for her work with her husband, Frank Bunker Gilbreth, on pioneering industrial management techniques. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, she earned a B.A. in 1900 and a M.A. in 1902. In graduating with honors, Lillian Moller Gilbreth became the first woman to give the commencement speech in the school's history. Later, she became one of the first "superwomen" to manage both family and career.

Lillian Moller Gilbreth was a mother of twelve. Two of her children, Frank Jr. and Ernestine (Carey), co-wrote the 1946 novel Cheaper by the Dozen and its 1952 sequel, Belles on Their Toes. Both books, which were later developed into screen plays, took a humorous look at life inside the Gilbreth household. Like her husband, Lillian Moller Gilbreth was passionate about finding efficient and productive ways to perform every task – from washing dishes to brushing teeth. Together, the Gilbreths outlined their management style in several books, including Motion Study and A Primer in Scientific Management. Sadly, none of these studies listed Lillian as co-author since their publicist believed a book's credibility would suffer if readers knew a woman was involved.

In addition to her responsibilities as an author and mother, Lillian Moller Gilbreth worked as an inventor, industrial engineer, and industrial psychologist. After the death of her husband in 1924, she continued to balance the demands of her family against those of the family business. Gilbreth, Inc., a consulting firm, focused on helping companies reach their goals while improving worker efficiency and reducing fatigue. Importantly Lillian Moller Gilbreth also helped teach managers about the psychological importance of work.

Lillian Gilbreth made significant contribution to General Electric and other leading companies by helping to improve the designs of many kitchen appliances, including the electric food-mixer and a trash can with a foot-pedal lid-opener. She also taught courses to train mangers, first from her home and later at colleges and universities. Eventually, Lillian Moller Gilbreth became a full professor at Purdue University, where she taught students how to apply her management techniques to a variety of human needs.

Lillian Moller Gilbreth was the first woman to be voted into the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the first female member of the Society of Industrial Engineers. She also received numerous awards and honorary degrees throughout her career, and was the first woman to receive the Hoover Medal for distinguished public service by an engineer. Even before her death at the age of 92, Lillian Moller Gilbreth was considered to be one of the greatest women engineers. In 1984, her life as a professional and mother was honored on a US postage stamp.

References:

http://www.webster.edu/~woolflm/gilbreth2.html

http://www.sdsc.edu/ScienceWomen/gilbreth.html

http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blGilbreth.htm

http://www.westga.edu/~bquest/2001/women.htm

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#1

Re: Lillian Moller Gilbreth (May 24, 1878 – January 2, 1972)

09/05/2007 4:39 PM

Sadly, none of these studies listed Lillian as co-author since their publicist believed a book's credibility would suffer if readers knew a woman was involved.

Doesn't that make you want to slap 'em ?

Mind, she could smarten herself up....

(That's a joke folk...irony or something...a comment on social attitudes.....don't shoot, please)

12 Kids too, that's one tough lady.

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Anonymous Poster
#2
In reply to #1

Re: Lillian Moller Gilbreth (May 24, 1878 – January 2, 1972)

12/07/2007 2:10 PM

This quote is not strictly true. L. M. Gilbreth was co-author on many publications with her spouse, F. B. Gilbreth. Many times she was identified as Lillian, but early-on was not taken seriously as a female engineer.

The citations below were taken from the Gilbreth Network on the web:

Gilbreth, Frank & Lillian, Applied Motion Study, NY, Sturgis & Walton Co., 1917. London, George Routledge & Sons, 1919. Second Edition, The MacMillan Co., 1920. [Also, translated/published in German, 1920. Easton, PA, Hive Publishing (reprint) 1973. Chapters- 1-What SM Means to America's Industrial Position, p3-20. 2- Units, Methods and Devices..., p21-40. 3- Motion Study as an Industrial Opportunity, p41-56. 4- Motion Study and Time Study-Inst. of Precision, p57-72. 5-Chronocyclegraph Motion Devices..., p73-96. 6- Motion Models: Their Place..., p97-130. 7- Motion Study for the Crippled Soldier, 131-157. 8- The Practice of SM, p158-186. 9- The Three Position Plan, p187-201. 10- The Effect of MS Upon the Workers, p303-211.]

Gilbreth, Frank & Lillian, Fatigue Study, NY, Sturgis & Walton Co., 1916. Revised Edition, The MacMillan Co., 1920. [Reprint, Hive Publishing, 1973]

Gilbreth, Frank & Lillian Motion Study for the Handicapped , NY, The MacMillan Co., 1920; London, George Routledge & Sons Ltd., 1920. [(re-published) Easton, PA, Hive Publishing Co. 1973 Containing articles: 1) The Re-Education of the Crippled Soldier-p18, 6/27/1917; 2) Motion Study for the Crippled Soldier-p25, 12/27/1915; 3) How to Put the Crippled Soldier on the Pay Roll-p40, 01/26/1917; 4) The Conservation of the World's Teeth-p52, 3/1917; 5) Measurement of the Human Factor in Industry-p68, 05/22/1917; 6) The Engineer, The Cripple, and the New Education-p90, 12/1917; 7) The Crippled Soldier in Industry-p110, 02/1918; 8) First Steps in the Solution of the Problem of Crippled Soldiers-p132, 03/27/1918; 9) Motion Study for the Blinded-p147, original to book?.]

In addition, when Frank died, she took his place in the European lectures that were scheduled when he died in the railroad station in Montclair. There was some reluctance on the part of Europeans and Americans to accept her as full partner with Frank, but this eventually abated.

I knew Dr. Gilbreth in her later years because I am married to a granddaughter who grew up in Montclair, and found her to be a fantastic person - very kind and very smart.

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Anonymous Poster
#3
In reply to #1

Re: Lillian Moller Gilbreth (May 24, 1878 – January 2, 1972)

08/21/2009 1:41 PM

it is sad and she sure is one tough lady! very smart too.

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