Who Was Maria Montessori?

Maria Montessori was an Italian educator and physician, born on August 31, 1870 in Chiaravalle, in the province of Ancona. In 1896 she became the first woman to obtain a medical degree in Italy. She was particularly interested in childhood and child psychology. Her research allowed her to develop her own teaching method, which she put into practice in a school for mentally handicapped children that she opened in 1907. Montessori’s pedagogy is based on the respect of the child’s rhythm of development. The objective is to encourage the autonomy and creativity of each student.

The birth of the Montessori Theory

Maria Montessori was the first woman to practice medicine in Italy. A scholar in biology, psychiatry, anthropology and medicine, she graduated from the University of Rome’s medical school in 1896. As a physician, Dr. Montessori was in contact with young children and was deeply involved in their development. Through a careful and meticulous eye, she realized that children build their own personalities by interacting with their environment. She also observed how they learned when they spontaneously chose the learning materials she offered them.

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The beginnings of Montessori learning

Maria Montessori observed the development of children in many countries of the world. She quickly recognized the universality of the laws of human development. She continued her observations throughout her life, expanding and deepening her knowledge until her death in 1952. Also involved in humanitarian work, she was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize (1949, 1950 and 1951). Maria Montessori was a scientist, and like all good scientists, she was both grounded in reality and deeply spiritual in her search for truth.

Who is Maria Montessori?

portrait maria montessoriMaria Montessori was an exceptional person, not only for the incredible work she did for the education of children, but also for being a strong woman during a time of repression. Maria Montessori is an iconic figure in history who will always be remembered for the great things she did, both in her work and in her daily life.

Maria Montessori was born in August 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy. She was born to two loving and educated parents. Her father was an accountant and her mother had a deep passion for education and reading in particular. This love and deep desire for education was taught to Maria at a very young age. Before starting school, Maria’s family moved to Rome when she was only four years old. It was in this city that Maria Montessori began her educational journey.

Maria Montessori was a bright student and did not let the traditional roles of women in her society deter her from furthering her education. Maria Montessori was interested in many different professional fields before finding her true passion: educating young children. As a teenager, Maria Montessori wanted to become an engineer. As a strong and determined young woman, Maria entered an all-boys technical school at the age of 13 to study engineering.

During her studies at the all-boys technical school, she decided to change her major to become a doctor. Her parents had wanted their daughter to pursue a career in teaching because it was one of the few professions at the time that welcomed women. Despite her parents’ wishes, Maria insisted on studying medicine, a career choice that was heavily dominated by men. Maria Montessori felt she had to become a doctor and could not give up.

After graduating from the Regio Instituto Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci, Maria Montessori began studying at the University of Rome to study mathematics, physics and natural sciences. Maria graduated only two years later, in 1892, at the age of 22. Thanks to her hard work in obtaining her degree, Maria Montessori was admitted to the University of Rome. She became one of the first women in all of Italy to study medicine. Maria Montessori was the first woman to study in the medical field at the University of Rome.

Maria Montessori is also known for her advocacy and defense of women’s human rights. From an early age, she opposed prejudice against women. As an early feminist, Mario Montessori represented Italy at the 1896 International Women’s Congress in Berlin, where she advocated for equal pay.

When Maria Montessori began practicing medicine after graduation, she worked primarily in psychiatry. She first worked as a surgical assistant at the Santo Spirito Hospital in Rome. Maria worked with the poor, but especially with children. In 1897, Maria joined a volunteer research program for the psychiatric clinic at the University of Rome. As part of her work for this program, Maria visited the asylums in Rome for mentally ill children.

While working with these children, Maria Montessori noticed that the children seemed to lack sensory stimulation. At the age of 28, Maria was invited to speak at the National Medical Congress in Turin. There she advocated for children with emotional and mental problems, explaining that the lack of proper care was one of the causes of their discomfort.

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Maria becomes co-director of a specialized institution called Orthophrenic School. This institution welcomed children with mental and emotional disabilities. There, Maria Montessori was able to put into practice some of the theories that she and other doctors had developed to help children. Maria would study and observe the children all day before finishing her observations at night. Maria’s time at this school changed the course of her career from physician to educator.

In 1907, Maria Montessori founded her own school, the Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, for children ages 3 to 6 in one of the poorest neighborhoods in San Lorenzo, Italy. It was in this school that Maria Montessori began to develop and shape the Montessori Method. She had placed many different activities and materials throughout the school, but kept only those that the children interacted with. It was through observing the children that Maria Montessori realized that when they were surrounded by activities and learning materials, children were able to learn on their own.

As she spread her vision around the world, she felt it was time to ensure the quality and integrity of what was being transmitted in her training courses. Therefore, she founded the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) in 1929.

The Legacy of Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was an Italian educator and physician who developed an innovative approach to children’s learning. Today, the Montessori Method is used by parents, teachers and educators around the world. The Montessori Method is widely known and commonly practiced at home as well as in school. Like the schools that Maria Montessori established throughout Italy, there are now many schools and childcare facilities that teach the Montessori Method.

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