Lillian Moller Gilbreth
Electric Food Mixer
Lillian Moller Gilbreth, the mother of 12 children, had good reason to improve the efficiency and convenience of household items. She earned her master’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley in 1902 and enrolled in a psychology program shortly after.
She married Frank Gilbreth, who convinced her to change her major to psychology in 1904 and became his engineering apprentice and construction business partner. She applied her knowledge of psychology to her work, analyzing how improvements to efficiency impacted the employees’ dedication to their jobs.
Gilbreth used psychology to solve problems in the home and workplace. She worked for General Electric and other appliance manufacturing companies, where she redesigned common kitchen and household appliances.
A pioneer in ergonomics, Gilbreth patented many devices, including an electric food mixer and the trash can with step-on lid-opener that can be found in most households today. She designed an ergonomically efficient kitchen that benefitted all homemakers, as well as disabled persons. Gilbreth's kitchen was the centerpiece of the international training center for the disabled that she directed at New York University.
She published many books on psychology and women in the workplace. Two of her children wrote the well-known books "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "Belles on Their Toes," which were both made into popular movies.
In 1935, Gilbreth received a post as a professor of management at Purdue University, becoming the first woman to be appointed to such a station. She was also given a resident lecturer post at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1964. She received over 20 awards for her achievements, including a 1984 postage stamp being issued in her honor.