LILLIAN EVELYN GILBRETH Biography - Architects, designers & engineers


Biography » architects designers engineers » lillian evelyn gilbreth


Born: Oakland, California, May 24, 1878                                           
Died: Phoenix, Arizona, January 2, 1972                                           
Mother of Modern Management                                                       
Lillian Gilbreth was the mother of modern management. Together with her           
husband Frank, she pioneered industrial management techniques still in use         
today. She was one of the first "superwomen" to combine a career with her         
home life. She was a prolific author, the recipient of many honorary               
degrees, and the mother of 12. She is perhaps best remembered for                 
motherhood. Her children wrote the popular books Cheaper by the Dozen and         
Belles on Their Toes about their experiences growing up with such a large         
and famous family. But Lillian Moller Gilbreth was not only a mother; she         
was an engineer and an industrial psychologist.                                   
Lillian excelled in high school and decided that she wanted to study               
literature and music. Her father did not believe in higher education for           
women. He felt they needed only enough knowledge to manage a home                 
gracefully. But Lillian persuaded him to let her attend the University of         
California at Berkeley while living at home and maintaining her family             
duties. When she obtained her B.A. in literature in 1900, she was the             
first woman to speak at a University of California commencement.                   
She went to Columbia, but illness forced a return to California after her         
first year. Undaunted, she went back to Berkeley and received a master's           
degree in literature in 1902. She celebrated by planning a vacation. She           
spent some time in Boston before embarking, and there she met her future           
Frank Gilbreth, who never went to college, was interested in efficiency in         
the workplace. His enthusiasm for the subject was contagious. He proposed         
to Lillian Moller three weeks after her return from Europe, and together           
they began their study of scientific management principles. Frank started         
a consulting business and Lillian worked at his side. They began their             
family and in 1910 moved to Rhode Island, where Gilbreth took her                 
doctorate in psychology at Brown University in 1915--with four young               
children in tow at the ceremony.                                                   
But where Frank was concerned with the technical aspects of worker                 
efficiency, Lillian was concerned with the human aspects of time                   
management. Her ideas were not widely adopted during her lifetime, but             
they indicated the direction that modern management would take. She               
recognized that workers are motivated by indirect incentives (among which         
she included money) and direct incentives, such as job satisfaction. Her           
work with Frank helped create job standardization, incentive wage-plans,           
and job simplification. Finally, she was among the first to recognize the         
effects of fatigue and stress on time management.                                 
Lillian Gilbreth continued her work alone after Frank's death in 1924. In         
1926, she became the first woman member of the American Society of                 
Mechanical Engineers. She went to Purdue in 1935 as a professor of                 
management and the first female professor in the engineering school. In           
her consulting business, she worked with GE and other firms to improve the         
design of kitchens and household appliances. She even created new                 
techniques to help disabled women accomplish common household tasks.               
She did not retire from professional work until she was in her 80s. She           
traveled widely, speaking and writing about management issues. In 1966,           
she won the Hoover Medal of the American Society of Civil Engineers. She           
died at the age of 92, the recipient of more than a dozen honorary                 
degrees. Her ability to combine a career and family led to her being               
called, by the California Monthly in 1944, "a genius in the art of living."