Gables Montessori Blog


We are celebrating the birthday of Maria Montessori. She was born in Italy, in the town of Chiaravalle, on August 31st, 1870. This educator was born 146 years ago and still her ideas persist and are the bases for the education of many children of the world. The details of Montessori´s life are found in ¨A Biography¨ by Rita Kramer (1976).

Maria Montessori´s father was Alessandro Montessori who was a gentleman and a soldier in his youth. Her mother was a woman named Renilde Stoppani. Alessandro and Renilde were married in the spring of 1866 and it was only a year later that Maria was born. She was close to her father, but it is known that her mother was who encouraged all of her dreams and ambitions.

Self-confident, talented, optimistic and greatly interested in change, those were the attributes of Maria. As a child she enjoyed taking her neighbor, a hunchbacked little girl, out for walks. Although schools were usually dirty and crowded, Maria learned very easily and did exceptionally well on exams. In games she was often the leader among the other children and never had trouble holding her own with other adults.

It was mentioned in Kramer (biographer of Montessori) that the Italian educator never get married but had a son named Mario, with a colleague. Maybe both families were opposed to marriage so the child was born, sent far from Maria and raised by a family in the countryside of Rome.

In 1886, Maria graduated from technical school. She got high marks in all of her subjects. From 1886 to 1890 she attended Regio Instituto Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci (Kramer, 1976) where she studied modern languages and natural sciences. By the time she was ready to graduate, she had decided she wanted to go into the biological sciences, but her family considered impossible for a woman to be accepted into a medical school.

She decided instead to enroll at the University of Rome to study physics, mathematics and natural sciences. In 1892, she received a Diploma di licenza that made her eligible to study medicine. But there was still a problem, she was a woman. It was considered odd to find a woman working side by side with men looking at a patient or studying the human body. But gradually other students began to accept her.

In 1896 she presented her thesis to a board of ten men and became the first woman to graduate from medical school in Italy with a very impressive record, anything over a 100 was considered brilliant and Maria scored a 105. Then more wins came. She asked to replace a surgical assistant and began to care patients. In 1897, Montessori joined the staff at the University of Rome as a voluntary assistant. As part of her tasks, she had to visit asylums for the insane, particularly children unable to function in schools or families. She started to think about what she could do to help out. So she began to develop all of her educational methods. With sixty children she started a “Children’s House” in San Lorenzo Rome.

The Children´s House offered the right environment to develop the activities Maria Montessori had in mind. Children would absorb knowledge effortlessly from their surroundings. She felt the children were able to teach themselves, which helped inspire her lifelong pursuit of educational reform. In 1913, she made her first visit to the United States. There she found valuable supporters Alexander Graham Bell and his wife, Thomas Edison and Helen Keller. In 1938 she opened the Montessori Training Center in Laren, Netherlands. In 1947, she founded the Montessori Center in London. And in 1949, 1950, and 1951 she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (Maria Montessori: A Brief Biography).

  1. Mortimer Standing, a former associate of Montessori’s wrote, “No one has so completely understood the soul of the child in its depth and greatness, in its immense potentialities, and in the mysterious law of its development.”

Considering the time period in which Maria was raised and lived through, she did have some great accomplishments. Well into the 1890’s, a woman could not walk in the street alone, write her own check, and basically not do anything without her husband. Maria managed to succeed in school, go to college, and become the first woman in Italy to graduate from medical school. Maria was almost eighty-two when she died in Noordwijk, Holland in 1952. Kramer wrote that Maria was, “no longer considered a major influence in education, but a historical relic,” when she died. (1976, p. 16).

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