Do you know who doctor Maria Montessori was? What was the life like of a woman nominated three times for Nobel Prize (1949, 1950, and 1951). Ready to read?


Dr. Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravalle, Ancona in the family of Renilde Stoppani and Alessandro Montessori on 31 August 1870. Her parents believed in discipline and applied that principle when raising up their daughter.
Her father, Alessandro Montessori, came from a noble family and was a military and conservative man. Her mother, Renilde Stoppani, was forward thinking and was quite educated for her time. She loved to read and had a very close relationship with her daughter.
In 1875 the family moved to Rome. Maria Montessori was interested in mathematics and decided to take up the career of engineering. Her parents suggested teaching but Maria was not fond of it. Her mother convinced the father so that their daughter attended a boy’s technical school, which she graduated from in 1886. After that, Maria made her decision that she wanted to study medicine and in 1890, against opposition from her father, she started a degree at the University of Rome in Mathematics, Physics, and Natural sciences. In 1892 she passed examinations and was allowed to begin the clinical part of her medical degree. Because of the opposition of the authorities and her fellow students she had to perform her dissection classes after hours and alone.
In 1896, she became the first woman in Italy to obtain a Doctor of Medicine degree although her father disagreed with her professional choice.
At that time began M.Montessori’s interest in the education of children with developmental disabilities. Meanwhile she intensively studied the work of Jean- Marc- Gaspard Itard and Eduard Seguin who shared her view i.e. ‘mental deficiency was a pedagogical problem rather than a medical one’ and that ‘ with special educational treatment, their mental condition could be immensely ameliorated.’ Slowly she became convinced that similar methods applied to normal children would lead to a mental awakening and a beneficial modifying action in them also.
Dr. Montessori also audited courses in pedagogy at the University of Rome and in 1898 gave birth to her only child- Mario.


The first Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) was opened officially on January 6th 1907, in San Lorenzo in Rome. How did it start?
A tremendous building project was started in the quarter of San Lorenzo in Rome. The building society went bankrupt and the building remained unfinished. Beggars, criminals, and homeless found shelter there. Later, another building society decided to finish the building and provide permanent homes with normal living condition. Between the 10 000 people living there they chose the married ones. There were 50 children who were wild and damaging the building while their parents were at work. The parents were illiterate and had to work so no one was taking care of the children. The initial idea was to gather the children (3-6 years old) in a room that was set aside for this purpose and to hire someone to look after them. Dr. Montessori was invited to become a director of this ‘school in the house’.

Dr. Montessori gave the first training course for 100 students in 1909 and a year later her book “L’Antropologia Pedagogica” was published.
During 1911 the Montessori method had already been put into practice in English and Argentinean schools. Model schools opened in Paris, New York, and Boston. This year Dr. Montessori resigned from her other jobs and dedicated herself to working on and spreading her method. The international interest in her approach grew after the translation into English of her first book.

In 1913 the first international course was held in Rome and a Montessori committee was set up. A Montessori Educational Association was founded in the United States. The same year she traveled and lectured for the first time in the US.

Dr. Montessori moved to Barcelona in 1916 to set up a model school, a children’ s chapel as well as a teacher training institute. Her third book ” The Advanced Montessori Method” appeared the same year.
In 1919, the future standard course format of teaching, lectures and observation was introduced. Between 1920 -1926 Dr. Maria Montessori held courses and lectures in Italy, Spain, France and Germany.
“Three years later, Maria and Mario Montessori founded the Association Montessori Internationale (1929) initially with headquarters in Berlin and after 1935 in Amsterdam. The first international Montessori congress was held in Denmark.

In 1933 The Nazis closed all Montessori schools and destroyed the movement in Germany.
1936 – 1939 M. Montessori lived in Amsterdam. Her book the “Secret of Childhood” was published in London. After that she went to India with her son’s family and extended her visit until 1945 due to the war. She held training courses and developed the concept of cosmic education in conjunction with her son. Dr. Montessori became very interested into infancy and language development.

1948 “From Childhood to Adolescence” was published and a year later “The Absorbent Mind”. Dr.Montessori’s last course was held in 1951 in Innsbruck.
She died on 6 May, 1952 in Nordwijk aan Zee and was buried in a local Catholic cemetery.

After 1956, the first course of the Assistants to Infancy was offered, the American Montessori Society was founded, the Mario Montessori 75 Fund was created to support the training of Montessori trainers and in 1974 the first AMI training of trainers program was established.

In 2007 we celebrated the centenarian anniversary of the first Casa dei Bambini. At present more than 22 000 Montessori schools exist in over 110 countries.

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