Children flourish in Montessori schools

Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was born on August 31, 1870 in Chiaravalle in the province of Anconas. Her mother Renilde Montessori, née Stoppani (1840-1912), came from a family of landowners and her father Alessandro Montessori (1832-1915) was a tax officer. The father was more conservative, but her mother was more liberal. Which later had an impact on Maria's career choice.

After six years of primary school, Maria decided in 1883 to go to a science and technology secondary school, which normally only boys attended. Her father found it very difficult to reconcile this choice with his petty-bourgeois worldview, but her mother took Mary's side because of her open worldview. She completed her secondary school education with great success, especially in mathematics. Her career aspirations had changed during this time; she now wanted to become a doctor.
At that time, the medical profession in Italy was a purely male domain. Alessandro, her father, convinced Maria that he did not forbid her to study, but this decision created a deep rift between the two. At first she was refused admission to medical school, which is why she studied natural sciences at the University of Rome in 1890. Ultimately, her efforts to be admitted to medical school were crowned with success. In 1892 she was the first woman to study medicine. She had to endure a lot of criticism and discrimination, for example she was not allowed to be in the same room with men when dissecting the corpses, which meant that she worked alone in the anatomy room in the evenings.
Shortly before finishing her medical degree, she had to give a lecture to all of her fellow students. She coped with this task with flying colors and her father, who had attended the lecture, was so proud of his daughter that they were reconciled again. On July 10, 1896, Maria received her doctorate and became the first woman doctor in Italy, the “Dottoressa”.

In the years 1896-1906 she first worked in a surgical clinic, later began to be interested in pedagogy and now worked in a psychiatric clinic for mentally handicapped children.

Another important point in her life was the relationship with Dr. Giuseppe Montesano, with whom she had worked closely at the psychiatric clinic. Their son Mario, who was born on March 31, 1898, arose from this relationship. As a result of this development, she was in conflict between her career and her child. An illegitimate child was frowned upon at the time. If she had confessed to her son in public, her career would have ended, and with it her previous educational efforts. Therefore she decided to give her son to a foster family. She visited him there frequently. Not being able to raise her own child herself was perhaps one reason why she worked so hard to bring up all children in the best possible way.

In the following years she studied again, this time pedagogy, experimental psychology and anthropology. She gave many lectures and advanced her knowledge. The first basic features of their pedagogy were intended. At the mental hospital she observed mentally handicapped children and came across the phenomenon of polarization of attention. She tried to reach the children with various sensory exercises and was successful in doing so. The desire to try the same with normally gifted children was awakened and the opportunity arose on January 6, 1907, when she opened the first children's home “casa dei bambini” in the Roman proletarian district of San Lorenzo. Due to their great success, more and more children's homes were opened in Italy.

In 1909 Maria held her first training course on pedagogy and published her work “Il metodo della pedagogica scientifica”.
In 1913 she took her son Mario, now 15, to live with her. In the following time he accompanied her on her travels to different countries, where Maria made her pedagogy known through courses and lectures. The Montessori movement had become international; Montessori children's homes and schools were now being opened worldwide. As time went on, she got Mario more involved and he became her advisor.

In the heyday of the Montessori movement, the fascists came to power in Italy. Mussolini supported her pedagogy and the method was introduced in all Italian schools, her pedagogy became the national educational theory of Italy. When the fascists interfered too strongly in their work, Maria broke the connection and fled to Amsterdam. The Montessori schools were closed in Italy, Spain, Russia and Germany. She suffered major setbacks and fled to India after the outbreak of World War II, where she lived with her son Mario from 1939 to 1946.
During her time in India she built up a large network and a strong Indian Montessori movement emerged. In 1946 she returned to Europe and faced her almost destroyed work. Maria did not give up and let her life's work flourish again with a lot of effort and many trips and lectures.

On May 6, 1952, Maria Montessori died unexpectedly in Holland and left her work, which was further developed by her son Mario and has remained up to date to this day. (see Heiland, H .: Maria Montessori. Reinbek 1991)

curriculum vitae

August 31, 1870born in Chiaravalle near Ancona / Italy
1890 - 1892Studied natural sciences at the University of Rome
1892 - 1896Medical degree
July 10, 1896first female doctor in Italy
November 1897Assistant in the psychiatric clinic
March 31, 1898Birth of her son Mario
1899Lecturer at the training institute for teachers in Rome
1900Head of the Pedagogical Institute
1902in-depth study of pedagogy
1904 - 1908Lectures on anthropology and biology in Rome
January 6, 1907Opening of the first children's home "Casa dei bambini" in the Roman proletarian district of San Lorenzo
1909first training course on their findings, publication "Il metodo della pedagogica scientifica"
1911national and international dissemination of their pedagogy through travel and training courses
1916Move to Barcelona
1933Destruction of the German Montessori movement by National Socialism
1936Civil war in Spain, escape to Amsterdam
1939 - 1946She left Europe during WWII and lived in India, which led to the development of a powerful Indian Montessori movement
1946Return to Europe, start of the rebuilding of her life's work
May 6, 1952died in Nordwijk aan Zee, in the Netherlands