Lillian Gilbreth

Thank you to Jill S. Tietjen, President and CEO of Technically Speaking, Inc for this post about Lillian Gilbreth.  The photo is from the Library of Congress.Image

Have you seen any of the Cheaper by the Dozen movies?  The original is based on a true story:  Lillian and Frank Gilbreth had twelve children – so that they could test their theories of industrial engineering!  They were two of the founders of the field.  Frank was always looking for the one best way to do something – whether it was laying bricks or working together in an operating room.

Lillian had a PhD in psychology and was very interested in matching people’s skills to their jobs.  Have you ever taken a career interest test?  Those were the kinds of tests that she developed.

She was fascinated with efficiency in the kitchen.  You’ve probably heard about the kitchen triangle – the distance between the stove, sink and refrigerator.  Yes, Lillian was involved with that.  When the washing machine was being developed, she was the one who insisted that the water be pumped in – and OUT!!  When you use a trash receptacle that has a foot pedal to open the top, you can think of and thank Lillian Gilbreth.

Two of Lillian’s children, Ernestine Gilbreth Carey and Frank Gilbreth, Jr. wrote the books Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes.  I met one of the twelve – Bob Gilbreth – when Lillian was inducted posthumously into the National Women’s Hall of Fame ( in 1995.  I corresponded for several years with Ernestine and met her when she was in a nursing home in Reedley, California.  We went out for dinner – and she drank a beer with her pizza.


Lillian Gilbreth was honored on a U.S. postage stamp and received many awards during her lifetime.  She was beloved by the founders of the Society of Women Engineers.  She became the first honorary member of the organization and the first scholarship presented was named in her honor; it is still awarded today.

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1 Response to Lillian Gilbreth

  1. Pingback: Tis the season to bake with Lillian Gilbreth | Hellar Reviews

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