Continuing our series on enterprising inventors of everyday things we take for granted, Sally Anne asks …
Who on Earth invented…the Pedal Bin?!
You’re carrying something to the bin, your hands are full and you don’t want to spill it. Thank goodness for the pedal bin! Read on to find out about the inventor who tried to make life easier.
Ergonomics is the science of making equipment which fits and works with the human body. This basically means making things work as easily and as conveniently as possible. Dr Lillian Gilbreth was a keen inventor who believed in finding the easiest way of getting things done. As such, she invented a range of gadgets to make jobs easier, including the pedal bin in the 1920s. Now we have to admit, pedal bins aren’t very exciting, but Lillian’s life definitely was.
Lillian, born in California in 1878, was an extraordinary woman. She went to university even though it was unusual for women at that time. Her Dad thought that women didn’t need to go to university, but Lillian went anyway. After studying English Literature at university, she met her husband-to-be, Frank. He introduced Lillian to ergonomics and working efficiently. She later went back to university to study how this could happen, gaining a PhD, which made her a Doctor of Science.
Lillian and Frank continued to work together, telling companies how to improve. Lillian also continued inventing, with shelves inside fridge doors and an electric food mixer amongst her other inventions. After Frank died in 1924, Lillian single-handedly raised their 12 children. She also continued with their business, even though some companies didn’t want to work with a woman. Their busy home life inspired their son, also called Frank, to write a book about their life called Cheaper by the Dozen. This was made into a film in the 1950s and inspired the 2003 version, although this version changed the names and storyline.
So whilst the pedal bin may not be the most earth-shattering invention ever, its inventor was a pioneer in a time when most women were expected to stay in the home. Lillian not only gained an education when this was unusual for women, she worked to improve the way companies treat their staff as well as working designing gadgets to make housework easier for people with disabilities, making her a truly inspiring woman.