The Gilbreth Family

Generations “X”: Other Family Members of Interest

Among the linear ancestor lines are a few family members who played a large part in the Gilbreth family story. These five (so far) were of larger significance than most.

Olivia P. [Gilbreth] Flynt

b. as Sarah Elizabeth Gilbreth, 10 October 1826 – Fairfield, Maine
d. 31 January 1897 – Boston, Massachusetts (70y 3m)
p. Benjamin Gilbreth, Elizabeth Carr Gilbreth
m. Edwin Flint (1827–1901), 1870 – Boston, Massachusetts
i. unknown

Olivia Flynt was the aunt of Frank Gilbreth Sr and the sister-in-law of Martha Bunker Gilbreth. In addition to changing her given names as a young woman, she changed her last name (and that of her husband's) long after the wedding as well. The couple had a joint business in Boston for about thirty years, she a dressmaker with several patented garments (including what is acknowledged as a forerunner of the modern brassiere), he a carpet and furniture cleaner.

The connections between Olivia and Martha (and their younger sister Mary) are complex and may contain the roots of the trouble with John Hiram Bunker's lost estate.

Caroline “Kit” Bunker

b. 1847 – North Anson, Maine
d. 1907 – Providence, Rhode Island (60y)
p. Daniel Bunker, Bridget Pelton
m. —
i. Fairfield, Maine

Aunt Kit was Martha Bunker Gilbreth's younger sister, named after a previous sister who had died at age 12. She was an accomplished artist, having studied in Boston and Paris and had showings in both locations. She lived with Martha—and thus Frank Sr—until her death from diabetes.

Anne Gilbreth Cross

b. 1859 – Fairfield, Maine
d. 1940 – Providence, Rhode Island (81y)
p. John Hiram Gilbreth, Martha Bunker Gilbreth
m. Frederick Cross, 1891 – ?
i. unknown

Aunt Anne was Frank Bunker Sr's oldest sister. She studied music in Boston and Germany—and was a student of Franz Liszt—before opening a music school in Providence. Her two children were close to the Gilbreth family, especially her daughter Caroline.

Dr. Lillian Delger Powers

b. as Lillie Delger, 21 February 1866 – Oakland, California
d. 9 January 1953 – Marin, California (86y 11m)
p. Frederick Delger, Ernestine Blücher Delger
m. Henry Otis “Harry” Trowbridge (1859–1926), 1 January 1885 – Oakland, California; divorced 1902
m. William John Sweasy Powers (1875–1938), 3 July 1902 – New York
i. unknown

There isn't nearly enough space here to do Lillian Gilbreth's aunt Dr. Lillian Delger (Trowbridge) Powers justice—

She married a prominent druggist, had three children, of whom two daughters died young, divorced the druggist, went to medical school, then married a medical student from a rival school nine years her junior. Helped by her substantial inheritance in 1898, she was granted her M.D. at thirty-eight. They both studied in Germany for some twelve years, then returned to practice in New York City before going back to Germany, where she studied under Sigmund Freud and became one of the first women psychoanalysts. Back in NYC, she practiced her new profession while her husband practiced medicine until his death in 1938. Somewhere in there, she assisted her young niece with the death of her husband (helping arrange the funeral, the cremation and the scattering of his ashes), and made six short live-action films featuring costumed squirrels. The last was easy, as her home in Westchester contained some 120-160 squirrels, all with names and all recorded in what are now thirty-one boxes of typed daily journals about their lives and activities. Even Freud noted that this brilliant, accomplished and well-educated woman's “interests at the time [were] devoted entirely to squirrels.”


Minnie Bunker

b. 27 September 1867 – North Anson(?), Maine
d. 29 January 1959 – Oakland, California (91y 4m)
p. Samuel Gould Bunker, Martha French
m. —
i. Mountain View, California

Were it not for Minnie Bunker, this page and the Gilbreth family itself might not exist. She was the daughter of Martha Bunker's oldest sibling, a half-brother (and the only child born to Daniel Bunker's first wife; the second gave him fourteen). Apparently her father relocated his family to California, and she attended the University of California (when there was only the one, in Berkeley) to eventually obtain a Bachelor's in English Literature in 1889 and a Master's in about 1894. She qualified for Phi Beta Kappa but was denied a membership because of her gender; she and Lillian Gilbreth would receive alumna pins more than a decade later.

Her most important role in the family history was being the escort for Lillian Moller and two other Oakland girls from good families on a trip to Europe in 1903, where in a stop before departure from Boston she introduced her charges to her cousin, a wealthy, dashing young contractor named Frank Gilbreth. That chance connection of families led to... everything.

Minnie would teach in Denver, Colorado and then for many years in Oakland, California, but never marry.

Dr. Jane Bunker

b. as Jennie George Bunker, 24 January 1869 – Brooklyn, New York
d. 10 October 1961 – Durham, North Carolina (92y 9m)
p. Dumont Bunker, Charlotte Elizabeth Graupner
m. —
i. Brooklyn, New York

Frank Bunker Sr's cousin was the daughter of Martha Bunker Gilbreth's younger brother. She became one of the first woman dentists in the US, then the third woman orthodontist (although the first to formally graduate as one). She practiced in Brooklyn most of her life and treated many of the older Gilbreth children. In an earlier time, Frank Sr had squired her around New York City. When the relationship seemed to be getting too serious, Martha barred her son from continuing the relationship. Jane would never marry.

Not (Quite) Family People of Interest

Nearly everyone who figures in the saga of the Gilbreth family is either a Gilbreth or a Bunker. However, there are at least two people who were very close to the family for an extended time, without sharing any particular heritage with them.

(Yes, readers of Cheaper by the Dozen... Tom Grieves and Mrs. Cunningham were real people!)

Thomas Henry Grieves

b. 4 September 1876 – Lawrence, Massachusetts
d. 1(?) January 1937 – Montclair, New Jersey (60y 4m)
m. Eva McKenna (1878–1908), 24 August 1903 – Attleboro, Massachusetts
i. Unknown; cremated and ashes scattered

Tom Grieves was the Gilbreth family handyman, and later cook and yard man, for over twenty-five years. He figures prominently in the books of family lore, getting many more pages than several of the younger children combined. He had been married before coming to the Gilbreth household, and had one son, whom he saw infrequently and was raised by a brother and sister.

“Mrs.” Annie Augusta [Phillips] Cunningham

b. 26 July 1877 – Lancashire, England
d. 4 February 1949 – Providence, Rhode Island (71y 6m)
m. Michael George Cunningham (1876–1908), 31 Dec 1984 – Rhode Island
i. Cranston, Rhode Island

Annie Cunningham was the family cook, but served other functions including nurse to Lillian Gilbreth and at least one newborn. Although she was with the family for over twelve years, many of them live-in, the family lore books never dignify her with a line of dialogue or even a first name—hence the slightly tongue-in-cheek gifting of her nickname above. She had five children of her own, at least one of whom visited the Gilbreth household—and apparently came along on vacations as extra help.