« The child is, for humanity,
both a hope and a promise. »
Dr. Maria Montessori, a renowned Italian teacher, created a method for children's education that has been met with great success, first in Italy and then in the rest of the world.
Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravalle (province of Ancona) on August 31, 1870. Her father came from a noble Bolognese family and was a conservative soldier. Although she was raised with a strict discipline, her mother, who was very close to her, respected her freedom and gave her both affection and understanding. She will never doubt the success of this.
Maria Montessori had her own ideas about her own education. At fourteen, she began to take an interest in mathematics. She will continue to take pleasure in them all her life. Her parents suggested that orient herself towards teaching: it was the only career open to women at that time. Maria Montessori refused categorically. She became one of the first women doctors in Italy when she was 26 years old.
During her work in psychiatry, she discovers that the so-called "dumb" children have no toys at their disposal, even though they need actions to make progress and need their hands to develop their intelligence.
At the same time, she discovers the research of two French doctors: Édouard Seguin and Jean Itard. Dr. Itard wrote two reports devoted to Victor, the wild child of Aveyron, and gained a worldwide reputation. These were the basis of Maria Montessori's work.
In 1901, she began to take an interest in "normal" children. She also undertakes studies in psychology and philosophy
"I believed that the methods I used for the benefit of those with feeble minds contained more rational principles than those used in schools for normal children. Seguin's voice echoed in me like that of the Forerunner crying in the wilderness, and my thoughts were filled with the immensity and importance of a work that could have the capacity to reform school and education”. Driven by this conviction, she set to work. As a result of her scientific training, she understood that only the observation of children and their reactions, conducted in a rigorous way, would allow her to elaborate the effective pedagogy of which she had the intuition.
She represents her country in feminist congresses and denounces child labor. She is already thinking of a universal method of education for mentally retarded children but also for all children.
January 6, 1907 Maria Montessori inaugurated her first Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) in San Lorenzo in a working class neighborhood’s building. The objective is to bring all these children together and prevent them from wandering the streets and sowing disorder.
The Casa dei Bambini becomes a place for research for Maria Montessori. Experience to experience, progressing, constantly refining ideas and teaching materials. In one year, several other "Children's Houses" are opened in Italy, and to where Maria Montessori is taken to train teachers.
In 1917, the year of the great universal exhibition, Maria Montessori was invited to the United States for lectures.
The "Montessori method" was met with great success in the United States, where Montessori Schools rapidly multiply. Soon after, such schools were created in many European countries.
From 1921 to 1931, she took part in the discussions organized by the International League for New Education. She especially took part in the congresses, where she presented her work and met the other great pedagogues of this movement such as Adolphe Ferrière, John Dewey and Roger Cousinet.
In 1929 she founded the Montessori International Association, (Association Montessori Internationale, or AMI), whose objectives are to preserve, propagate and promote the pedagogical and practical principles that she formulated for the full development of the human being.
Fleeing fascism, she left Italy for Spain in 1934. Then the Spanish Civil War broke out. Maria Montessori is then welcomed in England and then in Holland. From 1939 to 1945, in order to flee the Second World War, she moved to India, where she got the residence as an Italian immigrant until 1946. She took advantage of the opportunity to meet Gandhi Nehru and Tagore and to create many Montessori schools.
In 1952, she returned to Europe, first to Italy, which rehabilitated her, but preferred to move to the Netherlands, where she died the same year at the age of 82.
Maria Montessori’s son, Mario, continued her work and legacy until 1982.