Maria Montessori was born on 31 August 1870 at Chairavalle in Arcona, Italy. Her parents were strict Catholics, but her home was loving and happy.
At age six she started school at the local Public Elementary school. At age nine she began sharing her father’s passion for mathematics. By the time Maria was eleven, her parents decided to move to Rome to provide Maria with a more suitable education. The subjects she wished to explore were only offered at the technical school.
She attended this school until she graduated at the age of sixteen. It was then that she told her father she wanted to become an engineer. In her technical studies Maria achieved high marks in mathematics, natural sciences and modern languages, this enabled her to go to university and achieve the Diploma De Lisenza. Maria then studied anatomy, pathology and clinical work, which opened the door to medical school.
Her father was not accepting of her choice. He was not the only obstacle. The male students and the professor of anatomy decided she was not permitted to work in the dissection room with the male students. Maria had to do all her dissections alone after the others had gone home.
One evening Maria finally felt she had reached the end, however, it was not to be. As she was walking home she noticed a beggar woman and her child. The child was absorbed in a coloured piece of paper; it was as though nothing else existed. This strange concentration of the child spoke to Maria.
1870 - 1952
After this experience she said, “Suddenly I knew this way of knowing was akin to the self discovery felt at the centre of any deep mystical experience. I felt strange and afterwards I felt a great peace spread through me, and I was no longer frightened, because I knew then that I had special work to do.”
Maria graduated from the University of Rome in 1894. She was the first woman to graduate in Medicine. She was appointed as delegate to the international woman’s conference, the first being in Berlin.
Maria began visiting asylums in 1897; this together with the findings of Seguin, Itard and her own findings led her to formulating her ideas for helping children learn. Maria’s theories gained the attention of the Minister of education; she was required to lecture to teachers which in turn led to the opening of a Medical pedagogic institute with Dr. Maria Montessori as director.
The idea of the institute was to train teachers in the education and care of deficient children. Her teaching method raised theses “deficient” children to a level where they were able to pass the state exams designed for normal children. Maria wanted to extend her method to normal children. She gave up her position at the university and went on to study experimental psychology, philosophy and hygiene.
Maria was the first Italian professor. In 1904 she was appointed Professor of the Pedagogic Anthropology. She was also Chair of hygiene and an examiner at the faculty of Pedagogy.
Still Maria wanted to expose her methods to normal children. An opportunity presented itself when she was asked by business man Edoardo Talamo to open a school for children who were left alone during the day and vandalized the property. Maria accepted the position. She hired a teacher and showed her the basics of her teaching material.
This was the first of many “Children’s houses.” The Casa dei Bambini.
In years to follow she was able to expose children who had no social or cultural disadvantages to her methods and her results were just as successful. The “Children houses” were visited by Educationalists and social workers from near and far. Maria gave many training courses all over the world. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prizes on three occasions before she died in 1952 at the age of 82.
Dr. Maria Montessori noticed the unnoticed and saw the amazing potential in children. We believe Maria Montessori has opened doors for many and still will with the magic of her methods.