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 enabled her to develop her own teaching method, which she put into practice in a school for mentally handicapped children that she opened in 1907. The Montessori pedagogy is based on respect for the child's developmental rhythm. The aim is to encourage autonomy and creativity.

The birth of the Montessori Method

Maria Montessori was the first woman to practice medicine in Italy. A scholar of biology, psychiatry, anthropology and medicine, she graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Rome in 1896. As a physician, Dr. Montessori was in contact with young children and was deeply involved in their development. Thanks to her attentive 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 teaching materials she proposed.

child education montessori method
The beginnings of Montessori learning

Maria Montessori observed the development of children in many countries around the world. She quickly recognized the universality of the laws of human development. She continued her observations throughout her life, broadening and deepening her knowledge until her death in 1952. Equally committed to humanitarian causes, 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 quest for truth.

Who is Maria Montessori?

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

  • Childhood

Maria Montessori was born in August 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy. She was born to two loving, well-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 instilled in Maria from an early age. Before starting school, Maria's family moved to Rome when she was just four years old. It was here that Maria Montessori began her educational journey.

Maria Montessori was a brilliant student and didn't let the traditional roles of women in her society dissuade her from pursuing her studies. Maria Montessori was interested in many different professional fields before finding her true passion: the education of young children. As a teenager, Maria Montessori wanted to become an engineer. As a strong, determined young woman, Maria entered an all-boys technical school at the age of 13 to train as an engineer.

  • Education

During her studies at the boys' technical school, she decided to change direction and become a doctor. Her parents had wanted their daughter to pursue a career in teaching, as it was one of the few professions at the time that readily accepted women. Despite her parents' wishes, Maria insisted on studying medicine, a career choice strongly dominated by men. Maria Montessori felt she had to become a doctor and couldn't give up.

After graduating from the Regio Instituto Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci, Maria Montessori began studying mathematics, physics and natural sciences at the University of Rome. 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 Italy to study medicine. Maria Montessori was the first woman to study medicine at the University of Rome.

Maria Montessori is also well known for taking a stand in defense of women's fundamental 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 notably defended equal pay.

  • Learning

When Maria Montessori began practicing medicine after graduating, she worked mainly in psychiatry. She first worked as a surgical assistant at the Santo Spirito hospital in Rome. Maria worked with the underprivileged, but particularly with children. In 1897, Maria joined a voluntary research program at the University of Rome's psychiatric clinic. As part of her work for this program, Maria visited Rome's asylums for mentally ill children.

Working with these children, Maria Montessori noticed that the children seemed to lack sensory stimulation. At the age of 28, Maria was invited to address the National Medical Congress in Turin. There, she championed the cause of children with emotional and mental problems, explaining that lack of proper care was one of the causes of their malaise.

maria montessori child education

Maria becomes co-director of a specialized institution called Orthophrenic School. This institution catered for children with mental and emotional disabilities. Here, Maria Montessori was able to put into practice some of the theories she and other doctors had developed to help children. Maria studies and observes children all day long, finishing her observations in the evening. Maria's time at this school changed the course of her career, transforming her from doctor to educator.

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

As she passed on her vision around the world, she felt the time had come to ensure the quality and integrity of what was transmitted in her training courses. That's why she founded the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) in 1929.

The heritage of Montessori pedagogy

Maria Montessori was an Italian pedagogue and physician who developed an innovative approach to children's learning. Today, the Montessori Method is used by parents, teachers and educators the world over. The Montessori Method is widely known and widely practiced, both at home and at school. Like the schools that Maria Montessori set up throughout Italy, there are now many schools and childcare facilities that teach according to the Montessori pedagogy.


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