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Lillian Gilbreth and the mental revolution at Macy’s, 1925‐1928

Laurel Graham (Department of Sociology, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida, USA)

Journal of Management History (Archive)

ISSN: 1355-252X

Article publication date: 1 November 2000


As a pioneer of both scientific management and industrial psychology, Lillian Gilbreth was ideally equipped to extend scientific management into the service sector in the 1920s. When her husband and partner Frank Gilbreth died in 1924 and she encountered sex discrimination among industrialists and engineers, she volunteered her consulting services at Macy’s department store, a work site rife with gender‐based conflict, coordination problems and inefficiency. This paper describes her work with Eugenia Lies, Macy’s director of planning, to revamp both the motions and psychological atmosphere of occupations within the store between 1925 and 1928. By uniting an industrial relations approach with personnel management techniques, Gilbreth and Lies made the Gilbreth brand of scientific management useful for the field of retail management.



Graham, L. (2000), "Lillian Gilbreth and the mental revolution at Macy’s, 1925‐1928", Journal of Management History (Archive), Vol. 6 No. 7, pp. 285-305.




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