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Sunday, August 17, 2014

SPIC-AND-SPAN! Written by Monica Kulling and illustrated by David Parkins. Tundra Books, 2014. $ 19.99 ages 8 and up

"Lillian and Frank were efficient at home as well, running their house on the "Gilbreth System." Charts listed each child's "work": brushing their teeth, taking a bath, or making a bed. When the children completed the task, they placed a tick mark on the chart. Once a week, the Gilbreths held family meetings."

As I have said here before, there are SO many people of historical importance that I do, or did, not know. Monica Kulling has uppped my knowledge of some of them in a wonderful set of books from Tundra Books called the Great Idea Series. Each book in the series has been enlightening for me, and welcome. They are stories of inventors and their inventions: George Eastman, Elijah McCoy, Margaret Knight, Elisha Otis, Guglielmo Marconi. If you are not sure about their inventions, you should check them out. Now I meet Lillian Gilbreth, an ergonomics and efficiency expert.

Talk about a woman who had success in business at a time when women weren't expected to do more than keep hearth and home! Not content with the life of wealth and privilege that her early home life afforded, Lillian chose to go to university. When she married, she and her husband Frank were considered experts in their chosen field:

"They showed factory workers how to get the most done in the least amount of time. Frank thought there was one best way to do every job. Lillian thought people did their best when their workplace was comfortable and they enjoyed what they were doing. Lillian was not only an industrial engineer, but a psychologist too."

The story of a very successful businesswoman in the early twentieth century does not come without some issues. The Gilbreth's home is large and filled with 11 children (one daughter died at 5), which leads to a need for  efficiency. When Frank dies suddenly and Lillian is left to raise the children on her own, she is consumed by worries. A family meeting results in everyone staying together in their home, and leads to a need for money to support each and every one of them. To that end, Lillian and two daughters need to learn the fine art of feeding the family.

Luckily for us, Lillian found work helping companies redesign kitchen appliances and learn about efficiency in the workplace. There are so many things we need to thank her for today. Kitchen design, the electric mixer, pop-up lids on garbage cans, fridge compartments. So many things that we just take for granted that were not always there. Our everyday lives are made much better thanks to the efforts of imaginative, forward-thinking inventors like Lillian Gilbreth.

"During her lifetime, Lillian Gilbreth was an efficiency expert, an industrial engineer, an inventor, a psychologist, an author, and a professor. But she always said that her favorite role was that of a mother."     

This is a most worthwhile addition to a truly remarkable series!                   
 

1 comment:

  1. I LOVED Cheaper by the Dozen in middle school, and was astonished as an adult to see how accomplished Ms. Gilbreth was. Definitely purchasing this!

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