Cheaper by the Dozen
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"Cheaper by the Dozen" Summary

By Frank B. Gilbreth Jr.

nonfiction | 292 pages | Published in NaN

Adapted into two classic motion pictures, this bestselling memoir is the unforgettable story of two parents, twelve kids, and a world of laughter and love. Translated into more than fifty languages, Cheaper by the Dozen is the unforgettable story of the Gilbreth clan as told by two of its members. In this endearing, amusing memoir, siblings Frank Jr. and Ernestine capture the hilarity and heart of growing up in an oversized family.Mother and Dad are world-renowned efficiency experts, helping factories fine-tune their assembly lines for maximum output at minimum cost. At home, the Gilbreths themselves have cranked out twelve kids, and Dad is out to prove that efficiency principles can apply to family as well as the workplace. The heartwarming and comic stories of the jumbo-size Gilbreth clan have delighted generations of readers, and will keep you and yours laughing for years.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A humorous and heartwarming memoir about growing up in a large family with twelve children.


"Cheaper by the Dozen" is a heartwarming and humorous memoir written by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, which was first published in 1948. The book provides an entertaining and insightful account of the authors' unconventional upbringing in a large family, offering a unique blend of family dynamics, humor, and life lessons.

Brief Synopsis

The memoir is set in the early 1900s and revolves around the Gilbreth family, particularly focusing on the experiences of the twelve Gilbreth children. The family resides in Providence, Rhode Island, where the father, Frank Gilbreth Sr., is an efficiency expert and the mother, Lillian Moller Gilbreth, is a psychologist and industrial engineer. The family's home is a hub of activity and chaos, as the parents apply their expertise to manage their large brood.

Main Characters

The book features a vibrant cast of characters, but the main characters include:

Frank Gilbreth Sr.The father of the twelve children, an efficiency expert with a unique approach to parenting.
Lillian Moller GilbrethThe mother of the twelve children, a psychologist and industrial engineer, known for her innovative parenting methods.
Anne, Ernestine, Martha, Frank Jr., Bill, Lillian, Fred, Dan, Jack, and Jane GilbrethThe twelve Gilbreth children, each with their distinct personalities and roles in the family.

Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1-3:

The memoir opens with an introduction to the chaotic yet loving household of the Gilbreth family. The readers are introduced to the unique parenting methods of Frank Sr. and Lillian, which are often based on their professional expertise. The children engage in various mischiefs, and the family dynamics are established.

Chapter 4-6:

The narrative delves into the daily routines and activities of the Gilbreth family, showcasing the efficiency strategies implemented by the parents to manage the household. The children navigate through their individual challenges and adventures, providing a glimpse into the dynamics of a large family.

Chapter 7-9:

The story continues to explore the interactions and relationships among the Gilbreth siblings, highlighting their unity and occasional rivalries. The family faces both lighthearted and poignant moments, offering a multifaceted portrayal of their experiences.

Chapter 10-12:

As the children grow older, they encounter personal milestones and challenges, which are skillfully depicted in the memoir. The family's dynamics evolve, and the parents' wisdom shines through as they navigate the complexities of raising a dozen children.

Main Events

  • Frank Sr. and Lillian's innovative parenting methods and their impact on the family dynamics.
  • The children's misadventures and escapades within the bustling household.
  • The family's adaptation to societal norms and expectations while maintaining their unique identity.
  • The individual journeys and growth of the twelve Gilbreth children as they navigate adolescence and adulthood within a large family.

Themes and Insights


  1. Family Dynamics: The memoir explores the intricate dynamics of a large family, emphasizing the bonds, conflicts, and mutual support among the siblings.
  2. Parenting and Innovation: The book delves into the unconventional yet effective parenting methods employed by Frank Sr. and Lillian, highlighting the intersection of professional expertise and familial relationships.
  3. Growth and Resilience: The individual growth and resilience of the Gilbreth children amid the bustling and unconventional environment are recurring themes in the memoir.


  • The importance of adaptability and creativity in parenting and family dynamics.
  • The enduring impact of a nurturing and unconventional upbringing on the children's personal development.
  • The significance of unity and mutual support within a large family, despite the inevitable challenges and conflicts.

Reader's Takeaway

"Cheaper by the Dozen" offers readers a delightful journey into the bustling and unconventional world of the Gilbreth family. Through humor, warmth, and relatable experiences, the memoir provides valuable insights into the dynamics of large families, the art of parenting, and the resilience of the human spirit. Readers are likely to be inspired by the Gilbreth family's unique approach to life and parenting, while also finding moments of laughter and reflection within its pages.


In conclusion, "Cheaper by the Dozen" stands as a timeless and endearing memoir that continues to captivate readers with its portrayal of family, love, and the triumphs of everyday life. The Gilbreth family's extraordinary journey, filled with humor, chaos, and profound moments, resonates with audiences of all ages, making it a cherished literary work that celebrates the beauty of familial bonds and the enduring spirit of resilience.

Cheaper by the Dozen FAQ

  1. What is the book 'Cheaper by the Dozen' about?

    The book 'Cheaper by the Dozen' is a memoir by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, which recounts the humorous and heartwarming story of growing up in a household with twelve children. It details the experiences and challenges faced by the Gilbreth family and the unique methods their father, Frank Sr., used to manage their large household.

  2. Is 'Cheaper by the Dozen' a true story?

    Yes, 'Cheaper by the Dozen' is based on the real-life experiences of the Gilbreth family. The book is a memoir written by two of the Gilbreth children, offering a genuine and personal account of their family life.

  3. What is the writing style of 'Cheaper by the Dozen'?

    The writing style of 'Cheaper by the Dozen' is humorous, engaging, and filled with anecdotes that provide insight into the daily lives of the Gilbreth family. The authors use a lighthearted and nostalgic tone to share their memories, making the book both entertaining and heartfelt.

  4. Does 'Cheaper by the Dozen' focus on parenting and family dynamics?

    Yes, 'Cheaper by the Dozen' delves into the dynamics of a large family and the parenting techniques employed by Frank Sr. and Lillian Gilbreth. The book explores the challenges and joys of raising twelve children, offering valuable insights into effective parenting and the bond shared among siblings.

  5. What lessons can be learned from 'Cheaper by the Dozen'?

    Readers can learn about the importance of family, effective parenting strategies, and the value of humor and resilience in the face of challenges. The book also emphasizes the significance of fostering strong bonds among siblings and the impact of a supportive and loving family environment.