Monday, October 1, 2012

Lillian Moller Gilbreth

Lillian Moller Gilbreth
May 24, 1878-January 2, 1972

Education & Background

Lillian Moller Gilbreth was born, Lillian Evelyn Moller on May 24, 1878 in Oakland California. Born the oldest of nine children, she was home-schooled until the age of nine to help care for her sick mother and eight younger siblings. From the time she entered public school, Moller began to excel academically. Against the wishes of her father (a builder’s supply merchant), Moller attended The University of California, Berkeley and received her undergraduate degree in literature in 1900. She was also the first women at Berkeley to give the commencement speech. She went on to receive her Masters in Literature from The University of California in 1902. Though her dissertation and the requirements for her PhD. Were completed in 1911 at the University of California, she was not awarded her doctorate until 1915 from a separate school. In 1915 Moller graduated from Brown University with the first doctorate degree in Industrial Psychology.
In the meantime Lillian Moller met and married Frank Gilbreth. Frank Gilbreth and his wife shared a fascination with efficiency and management. This must have been helpful in the raising of their twelve children. In fact many times their children were used as subjects in the couple’s research on management and efficiency. Many people today may recognize the book, or the movie “Cheaper by the Dozen” which was in fact written by the Gilbreth children and co-authored by their parents. Also based on the families experience was “Belles on Their Toes”. When Frank Gilbreth died in 1924 his wife became a single parent and the sole supporter for her twelve children.

Professional Accomplishments

 Lillian Gilbreth achieved much success in her professional career. Much of her innovative work and research has been incorporated into our daily lives not only in the home but also in the workplace. Gilbreth worked as a consultant for much of her life and was a pioneer in the world of ergonomics. She was the first scientist to document the effects of stress and lack of sleep on workers. As well as implementing ideas such as an employee suggestion box, and breaks for workers. She worked with general electric in order to help create a more usable and efficient kitchen. She patented many inventions in regard to that work such as modernizing the electric mixer, installing shelves in refrigerator doors, and probably the most  known today the trash can with a foot petal to open the lid. During the Second World War her opinions and research were extremely influential to the government who was for the first time having a large women population in the work force. In 1944 she was the first women member in the American Society for mechanical engineers. She also won the Hoover medal of the American society of Civil Engineers in 1966. Not to mention at least a dozen or more awards for her work.  She is also the only psychologist to ever be on a postage stamp.
Lillian Gilbreth was the pioneer of today’s working mother. Her many firsts as well as numerous awards helped paved the way for many other women. She took her roles as mother, wife, and professional all very seriously. Much of her work has improved our daily lives as well as greatly improved the modern work environment for the better. 

Society for the Psychology of Women
(accessed September 28, 2012)
Lillian Moller Gilbreth
(accessed September 28, 2012)
(accessed September 28, 2012)

Caitlin Flanagan
Melanie Hill
Psy 350

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