Gilbreth, Frank B., Jr. Critical Essays

Introduction

Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. 1911– Ernestine Gilbreth Carey 1908–

(Carey has also written under the name Ernestine Gilbreth.) American authors of autobiographies, nonfiction, and novels.

Gilbreth and Carey are perhaps best known for their first collaboration, Cheaper by the Dozen, a chronicle of the mostly comic misadventures of their 14-member family. Their parents, Frank B. Gilbreth, Sr. and Lillian Moller Gilbreth, were motion-study experts who wrote pioneering studies on time management. Their hypotheses were sometimes tested in the raising of their family. From an early age the children participated in the running of the household and often became reluctant subjects for their father's experiments.

The professional association of Gilbreth and Carey seemed to develop naturally out of their maturation in a family which encouraged cooperation and valued the written word. In Cheaper by the Dozen and its sequel, Belles on Their Toes, Gilbreth and Carey portrayed their close-knit yet intensely ambitious and successful family with warmth, and for many the Gilbreths came to represent the ideal American family. The family also became quite well known when both books were filmed, adapted for the stage, and translated into many languages.

Gilbreth and Carey have each pursued an independent writing career since the publication of Belles on Their Toes. Carey's first novel, Jumping Jupiter, dealt with the troubles of a toy buyer at a New York department store, inspired by her own experiences buying for Macy's. Though the book received warm critical reception, her subsequent output has included only one other novel and a memoir of her married life. Gilbreth, on the other hand, has proved far more prolific. His books range from How to Be a Father, a tongue-in-cheek guide based on his own knowledge of fatherhood, to Loblolly, a gentle satire of Southern gothics. He returned to his initial subject in 1971 to tell of his parents' early years in Time Out for Happiness. All his works share the good-natured wit and engaging honesty that helped make Cheaper by the Dozen so popular. In general Gilbreth's works have been more kindly received by critics than Carey's; however, neither writer alone has written anything that has come close to matching the appeal of their collaborations. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed., and Something about the Author, Vol. 2 for Gilbreth; see also Something about the Author, Vol. 2 for Carey.)