Then, in 1924, Frank had a massive heart attack while in a phone booth talking to Lillian. He was dead at the age of 55. Their youngest child, Jane, was just two.
In Cheaper By The Dozen, Frank Jr and Ernestine wrote that their mother changed after their father’s death, losing her fear of fast cars, aeroplanes and walking alone at night.
“Now, suddenly, she wasn’t afraid anymore, because there was nothing to be afraid of. Now nothing could upset her because the thing that mattered most had been upset. None of us ever saw her weep again.”
Lillian continued working as an efficiency expert. She had to, to provide for her family. But because a lot of companies didn’t want to do business with her, being a woman, she turned her focus to kitchens.
“If the only way to enter a man’s field was through the kitchen door, that’s the way she’d enter,” wrote Frank Jr and Ernestine in Belles On Their Toes, the sequel to Cheaper By The Dozen.
In the 1920s, women were spending up to half their day in the kitchen. Lillian redesigned the kitchen layout into an L-shape so that women could cook more efficiently. She did an experiment that proved that in a kitchen with her layout, a strawberry shortcake could be baked by taking just 45 steps, instead of the usual 281. She also did a study of more than 4000 women to find the best height for stoves and other kitchen fixtures.