Belles on Their Toes

Belles on Their Toes is a 1950 autobiographical book written by the siblings Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. It is the follow-up to their book Cheaper by the Dozen (1948), which covered the period before Frank Gilbreth, Sr. died. It was adapted as a film in 1952.


The title alludes both to a line in the nursery rhyme "Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross" (i.e., "Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes") and to the marriages of the Gilbreth sisters: "It was apparent that in order to get rings on their fingers, belles would have to be on their toes."


Belles on Their Toes was written about the Gilbreth family after Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr.'s death, and how they survived as their mother, Lillian Moller Gilbreth, continued the pioneering work in industrial engineering, time and motion studies, and industrial/organizational psychology she had shared with her husband. This book is also the first place where the absence of the second oldest child, Mary Gilbreth, is explained; she died of diphtheria in 1912, at age five.

Ernestine and Frank decided to share the royalties from the books and movies evenly among their mother and siblings.

Film adaptation

Belles on Their Toes was made into a 1952 motion picture starring Myrna Loy as Lillian Gilbreth.