Assembling a Variable Resistor before and after a motion study

Anne Gillespie Shaw

1904 – 1982

Anne Gillespie Shaw

production engineer and businesswoman

Engineering Achievements

Anne Gillespie Shaw was the leading UK pioneer and proponent of motion-studies, applied to UK production and manufacturing. 

In 1930 Shaw returned to the UK after working for Gilbreth Management Consultants, and became a personnel officer for Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company in Manchester, and was later (1933) chief supervisor of women workers. She proved to management that a recently-reviewed process could be 150 per cent more efficient. From 1930 to 1945 she was the firm's first and chief motion-study investigator, and as consultant to the entire Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) group, of which Metropolitan-Vickers was a part, she organized motion study courses. In 1935 Shaw joined the Women's Engineering Society (WES) and helped the Electrical Association for Women (EAW) produce an experimental film demonstrating the application of motion study to food preparation in the home. 

During the Second World War the government requested that her motion study courses for AEI be given to the rest of the munitions industry. In 1942 Stafford Cripps, Minister of Aircraft Production, recruited Shaw onto his Production Efficiency Board, to advise on work methods in the aircraft industry. In 1945 she organized a national exhibition to demonstrate that her motion study methods applied to all industries. Benches of women demonstrated optimal motions for common industrial processes.

After the Second World War Shaw set up her own consultancy business, the Anne Shaw Organisation Ltd., of which she was Chairman and Managing Director, from 1945 to 1974, with her husband, John Pirie, and Bernard Ungerson as partners, and her son David Pirie joining the firm later. It continued after her retirement and death, and produced films, reports, and training courses for commercial and government clients. 

Her Life

  1. 1904 Born at 'Merchiston', Uddingston, near Glasgow on 28th May to David Perston Shaw, killed on the Western Front in 1915, and Helen Brown Graham.who later became Unionist MP for Bothwell, Lanarkshire from 1931-35.
  2. c1914-1922 Age: 10-18 educated at Laurel Bank School Glasgow, and St Leonards School, St Andrews
  3. c1922-27 Age: 18-23 Studied at the University of Edinburgh, initially mathematics and natural philosophy, changing to industrial psychology, graduating MA.
  4. 1928 Age: 24 Scholarship to study PGCert in Social Economy, Bryn Mawr University, USA
  5. c1928-30 Age: 24-26 met Dr Lillian Gilbreth, lecturer in time and motion studies at Bryn Mawr, and worked for Gilbreth Management Consultants
  6. 1930 Age: 26 Joined Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company, Manchester, UK as Personnel officer
  7. 1930-45 Age: 26-41 Became the firm's first and chief motion-study investigator, and organized motion study courses to the parent Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) group
  8. 1935 Age: 31 Gained private pilot's licence on 31 May
  9. 1936 Age: 32 Chartered Engineer and Member of Institution of Production Engineers (the first woman)
  10. 1937 Age: 33 married John Henderson Pirie on 27 December at Uddingston,
  11. 1945-74 Age: 41-70 Chairman and Director of The Anne Shaw Organisation Ltd
  12. 1954 Age: 50 Awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)
  13. 1964-79 Age: 60-75 Director of Wescot Ltd
  14. 1982 Age: 77 Died on 4 February at Bel Air Nursing Home,Alderley Edge, Cheshire.

Legacy and Honours

Basics of motion study, ergonomic layouts of work areas, both industrial and domestic. Use of lights on human body for filming motion. 

Shaw served on the Ministry of Aircraft Production's Production Efficiency Board, 1942-5, the Board of Trade's post-war Cotton Working Party, 1945-6; National Advisory Council on Education for Industry and Commerce, 1948–60; Cttee of Enquiry on Training of Teachers for Technical Colleges; Milk Marketing Board, 1964-73; NEDC for the Post Office, 1963; Economic Planning Council for the Northwest Region; the Court of Enquiry into the Ford Dispute, 1968; and the only technically-qualified woman member of the Committee on Safety and Health at Work, 1970–72, chaired by Lord Robens which led to the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974).

Queen's Coronation Medal, 1953

CBE, 1954

First president of the Motion Study Society of Great Britain, later the Work Study Society,1938

Gilbreth Medal for contribution to scientific management (Soc. for Advancement of Management), 1948 (first woman after Lillian Gilbreth, and first non-American)

President, Insitute of Personnel Management, 1949-51

Chairman, Management Consultants Association, 1967-8

Honorary Fellow, UMIST, 1969

More Information

Shaw, Anne G (1944). An Introduction to the Theory and Application of Motion Study. 

Shaw, Anne G (1952) The Purpose and Practice of Motion Study. Columbine Press, Manchester

Willis, E D and Shaw, Anne G (1950) Motion-Study Investigation into The Clerical Work of a Doctor's Surgery. British Medical Journal, vol 2. No 4680 pp132-34 

The Woman Engineer, Women’s Engineering Society, vols 4-13.

Thickett, M (1965) The Impact of Frank Bunker Gilbreth.

Williams, Harold (1991) ‘Roots – the pioneers – Anne Shaw’, Management Services, Aug 1991, 35.8, pp 26-8.

Obituary. The Times 15 Feb. 1982.

Obituary. The Production Engineer, April 1982, p7

Shaw [married name Pirie], Annie [Anne] Gillespie (1904-1982). Nina Baker. ODNB (free to UK library subscribers)

Shaw, Anne Gillespie (Mrs J H Pirie). Who was Who. 

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