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Ernestine Gilbreth Carey collection regarding Lillian Moller Gilbreth

Identifier: SSC-MS-00374

Scope and Contents

These materials consist of 6.5 linear feet of material dating from the late 1860s through 1999. The collection contains both personal and professional papers. Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, her third daughter, has been instrumental in both the documentation and publicity of her mother's career. Carey is the author of two books that describe her unusual upbringing, Cheaper by the Dozen (1948), which she co-authored with her brother Frank Gilbreth, Jr., and Belles on Their Toes (1950). Carey gathered most of the material in this collection in preparation for a biography of her mother. Many of the documents contain notes that reflect Carey's process as a writer and researcher.

These materials are closely associated with the Ernestine Gilbreth Carey Papers also housed here. A more extensive archive of Lillian Gilbreth is located in the Department of Special Collections and Archives at Purdue University Library.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1860 - 2000


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that they own copyright, the heirs of Lillian Moller Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey have retained copyright in works donated to Smith College. Copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, or which may regard materials in the collection not created by Gilbreth and Carey, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

Lillian Moller Gilbreth is perhaps most widely known as the mother of the Cheaper by the Dozen family but her talent and groundbreaking influence in the field of industrial engineering is her most remarkable achievement. Lillian Moller was born in 1878 to William Moller, a partner in a large retail hardware business, and Annie Delger. As a youth, she became interested in poetry and pursued her passion as an undergraduate. In 1900, Lillian Moller graduated from the University of California with a degree in British literature. She then attended Columbia University for graduate study in English literature. Two years later she was awarded a Master's degree. In 1903, she met Frank Bunker Gilbreth, a cousin of her chaperone. Frank Gilbreth had risen from an apprentice bricklayer to become a well-known contractor through his labor-saving techniques and ingenuity. The couple married in 1904 and soon thereafter embarked upon a joint career in industrial engineering. After publishing two books, Motion Study (1911) and Primer of Scientific Management (1912), the couple moved from Boston to Providence, Rhode Island where they founded Gilbreth, Incorporated, a consulting engineering firm. Lillian M. Gilbreth received her Ph.D. in industrial psychology from Brown University in 1915. Lillian and Frank Gilbreth were popular lecturers and spoke at many conventions and universities on the subject of motion saving techniques and worker efficiency with respect to both physical ability and psychological variables. Lillian Gilbreth stressed the "human element in management" and believed that the individual worker was more responsive to recognition of good performance than to threats of punishment. This type of positive discipline was integral to the Gilbreth method of management, which they practiced both professionally and also in their domestic life. Between 1905 and 1922, Lillian Gilbreth gave birth to twelve children, eleven of whom survived to adulthood. In 1924, Frank Gilbreth died suddenly of a heart attack. Lillian attempted to continue their consulting business. She experienced so much discrimination in her attempt to go solo in an overwhelmingly male profession, that she began concentrating on issues of homemaking. Gilbreth published two books on the subject, The Home-Maker and Her Job (1927) and Management in the Home (1954). Gilbreth and her husband were also concerned with the needs of disabled individuals. While he was still alive, they published several articles on disabled soldiers and Gilbreth continued this thread by designing equipment and motion saving methods to make household tasks easier for disabled people. She also published two books on this subject, Normal Lives for the Disabled (1933) which she co-authored with Edna Yost, her friend and later biographer, and Straight Talk for Disabled Veterans (1945). Despite the obstacles faced by a woman in the field of engineering, Gilbreth's career flourished. She was appointed professor of management at Purdue University in 1935 and also was a member of the faculty at Newark College of Engineering from 1941-43. She also volunteered for many groups and organizations, including the Girl Scouts of America. Throughout her career, Gilbreth won many awards and was a popular speaker. She died in 1972 at the age of 83.

For more information, see Jane Lancaster's dissertation, Wasn't She the Mother in Cheaper by Dozen: A Life of Lillian Moller Gilbreth, 1878-1972 (1998); Laurel Graham's book, Managing on Her Own (1998); and the American National Biography and Notable American Women.


10.479 linear feet (20 containers)

Language of Materials



Biographical collection of Lillian Moller Gilbreth, industrial engineer, assembled by her daughter Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. In addition to industrial engineering, Gilbreth and her husband published and lectured extensively on the subject of motion saving techniques and worker efficiency with respect to both physical ability and psychological variables. Family material reflects the unique Gilbreth method of child-rearing. The bulk of the family correspondence is with Gilbreth's third daughter, Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. Other materials include awards, photographs, writings and speeches.


This collection is organized into five series:

  1. I. Biographical Materials
  2. II. Correspondence
  3. III. Speeches and Writings
  4. IV. Organizations and Professional Activities
  5. V. Photographs


This collection has been added to over time in multiple "accessions." An accession is a group of materials received from the same source at approximately the same time.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (Smith 1929) donated the material in this collection over the course of several years.

Related Material

Related material can be found in the Ernestine Gilbreth Carey Papers, Sophia Smith Collection. Additional papers of Lillian Gilbreth are in the Department of Special Collections and Archives, Purdue University Library.

Processing Information

Processed by Jack Slowriver and Kathleen Banks Nutter, 2001.

Processing Information

Between September 2022 and February 2023, Smith College Special Collections renumbered many boxes to eliminate duplicate numbers within collections in order to improve researcher experience. The following changes were made in this collection: Accession 2014-S-0012, Boxes 1-2 renumbered as Boxes 18-19

Lillian Moller Gilbreth papers
Finding Aid
Jack Slowriver
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: mnsss25 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:14-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2021-07-14: Content description added from accession inventory
  • 2022-03-03: Integrated former Series VI: Oversized Material into appropriate series.

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063