Lillian Gilbreth (Lillian Moller Gilbreth)

Lillian Gilbreth

Lillian Gilbreth was born in Oakland, California on May 24, 1878. She was the second of eleven children of William Moller, a builder’s supply merchant, and Annie Delger. Both parents were of German descent. She was educated at home until she was nine years old, when her formal schooling began at a public elementary school, where she was required to start from the first grade (although she was rapidly promoted through the grades). She attended Oakland High School, where she was elected vice president of her senior class; she graduated with exemplary grades in May 1896. Lillian Gilbreth started college at the University of California, Berkeley shortly after, commuting by streetcar from her parents’ Oakland home. She graduated from the University of California in 1900 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and was the first female commencement speaker at the university. She originally pursued her master’s degree at Columbia University, where she was exposed to the subject of psychology through courses under Edward Thorndike. When she arrived at Columbia, she had planned to study with Brander Matthews, a well-known writer and educator, but soon realized he did not allow women to study with him or attend his lectures. She turned to Thorndike and psychology because he did accept female students. However, she became ill and returned home, finishing her master’s degree in literature at the University of California in 1902. Her thesis was on Ben Jonson’s play Bartholomew Fair.

Lillian Gilbreth met her future husband Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr. in June 1903 in Boston, Massachusetts, and married him on October 19, 1904, in Oakland. Gilbreth completed a dissertation and attempted to obtain a doctorate from the University of California in 1911, but was not awarded the degree due to noncompliance with residency requirements for doctoral candidates; this dissertation was later published as The Psychology of Management. Instead, since her immediate family had relocated to New England by this time, she attended Brown University and earned a Ph.D in psychology in 1915. She was the first of the pioneers of industrial management to receive a doctorate. Her second dissertation, on efficient teaching methods, is titled Some Aspects of Eliminating Waste in Teaching. She died on January 2, 1972 in Phoenix, Arizona.

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  • May, 24, 1878
  • USA
  • Oakland, California


  • January, 02, 1972
  • USA
  • Phoenix, Arizona


  • Cremated

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