MariaMontessori was an Italian innovator, educator, and physician born onthe 31st August 1870 in Chiaravalle town, Italy. Her father,Alessandro was a financial manager in a government-industry while hermother, Renilde Stoppani was brought up in a family that highlyvalued education and therefore had a great passion for reading. Aftertheir migration to Rome, Maria enrolled in a local state schoolcalled Via di San Nicolo da Tolentino where she succeeded and joinedRegio Instituto Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci with the intention ofstudying engineering, a course which was unusual for a girl child atthis time (O`Donnell,2014).Upon her graduation, her parents encouraged her to pursue a career inteaching, which was one of the limited occupations available towomen, but Maria was determined to become a doctor even though thefather opposed this idea since a medicine course was only preservedfor the male sex. Maria became undeterred, ostensibly winding up theunproductive interview with the professor saying, “I know I shallbecome a doctor.”
In1890, Maria was enrolled to study Mathematics, Physics, and naturalscience at the University of Rome, receiving a diploma certificatetwo years later. This diploma certificate enabled her to join thefaculty of medicine, becoming the first woman to enter into a medicalschool in Italy. Maria stood out because of her femininity as well asintent in mastering the general subject matter (Pound,2012).During her medical schooling, she won successive scholarships whichassisted her in the payment medical education fee. She, however,faced many prejudices from the male colleagues but this did not deterthis girl in her work, she remained a dedicated and focused student,and on July tenth, 1896, she became the first female doctor in Italy.
Afterher doctorate, she immediately got employment in San Giovannihospital and later on represented Italy at the International Congressfor women’s rights, which was held in Berlin. In her speech to theCongress, she established a thesis statement for social reform andargued that females should be eligible to same wages and salarieswith men (Pound,2012).During the event, a reporter asked her how the patients respondedtowards the female doctors and she replied “…they knowintuitively when someone cares about them… it is only the upperclass that have a prejudice against women leading a useful existence(Swiderski,2011).”Maria was well schooled and became an avid reader who was unusual foran Italian woman at that particular time. Her thirst for knowledgeprocured root resulting into her to immersion in several fields ofstudies such as anthropology and educational philosophy. In 1901, shegot a post as a lecturer in Pedagogic school, a post she held till1908. During one of her lectures, she said to her students, “Thesubject of our study is humanity our purpose is to become teachers.Now, what makes a teacher is a love for the human child for it isthe love that transforms the social duty of the educator into thehigher consciousness of mission”.
Shemainly focused on psychiatry during her first medical practice andapart from her clinical work she visited the insane in Rome’sasylums, in search of patients for treatment. During one of hervisits to the asylum, the children’s caretaker said to her inrepugnance how the children grasped fragments off the ground aftertheir meals. Maria realized that the children were so desperate forsensory stimulation and this deprivation was backing to theircondition. She started to read on the theme of mental retardation andcreated a few practical apparatus to aid in the children’s motorskills and sensory perceptions.
Shealso established a concern in education, therefore, started attendingvarious lessons in pedagogy, studying the workings of Froebel andPestalozzi. She also engaged herself in Educational Theory. Herstudies in education steered her to observe, and question theprevalent methods of teaching pupils with developmental andintellectual disabilities. She also got an opportunity to work withthe normal children and brought them educational equipment she hadmade in the Orthophrenic School.
Shewas appointed as a co-director of the new Training Institute forSpecial Education Teachers in 1990, giving her an opportunity toimprove on the then methods of teaching the disables. Montessoriapproached this particular task scientifically, cautiously observingand taking experiments to know which teaching techniques could workbest. In her new teaching method, many children made surprising gainsmaking the program to be proclaimed a success.
Mariaalso had a massive support for the education sector. She waschallenged to open a children center in 1907 in a poorer central cityDistrict. This center became the first eminence learning environmentfor the young people (Casa dei Bambani). During the opening ceremonyof this center, Maria felt differently “I had a weird feelingwhich made me declare forcefully that here was the opening ofundertaking which the whole the world would one day speak (Pound,2012).”The young children were boisterous at the beginning, but later ondeveloped a higher interest in associating with the puzzles, forinstance, manipulating the materials which held lessons inmathematics and also learning on how to prepare meals (O`Donnell,2014).Maria observed how the children absorbed knowledge within theirsurroundings, fundamentally teaching themselves.
Shealso utilized her scientific experiences and observation gained fromher previous work with the young children to design learningclassroom and teaching materials which fostered the children’sordinary desires to learn. Due to good learning conditions, the newsof her schools spread through the whole and by 1910, Maria’sschools became the best worldwide making visitors come and see forthemselves, how Montessori was achieving such results. She laterwrote in 1914, “I did not invent a method of education I simplygave some little children a chance to live.”
Infollowing years, Maria committed herself to advancing and developingher child-centered methodology to education. She wrote articles,books, took part in an extensive lecturing and established a programto prepare all teachers in the Montessori Method. Via the work of hersupporters and her efforts, Montessori Method got its adoptionworldwide.
Dueto her publicity, she took part in campaigning dynamically on behalfof all women so that women could also be allowed to pursue educationjust like men did. She spoke and wrote regularly on the need for moreopportunities for women. Maria’s fight for the rights of women madeher be recognized in Italy and worldwide as a prominent feministvoice.
Shegot into a relationship with Mr. Giuseppe Montesano in 1998 anddeveloped a love affair leading to the birth of their first born babyboy called Mario. Montessori left other commitments and devotedherself in spreading her developed approach however, copious ofexpansion was distorted and ill-founded by happenings of the worldwar one.
AfterMario’s marriage to Helen Christy, Maria returned from the USA andcentered herself in Spain, Barcelona, where a Seminari-Laboratori hadbeen established for her. Mario and his wife joined her together withher four grandchildren.
Mariahad an ambition of establishing a permanent research and developmentcenter to early-years education, but this was thwarted by a rise offascism in Spain. In 1939 Maria and Mario went to India to give threemonths training course in Madras after which they would embark on alecture tour due to the outbreak of war in Italy. Maria was placedunder a house arrest at Rural Hill station in Kodaikanal and herexperience in the jail guided her in thinking towards nature andrelationship amongst the living things, a subject she was to takepart in developing till the termination of her life that became to beknown as cosmic education. On the other hand, her son, Mario wasinterned (O`Donnell,2014).In 1946, after their release, they came back to Netherlands to seethe rest of the family members who had been in the care of PiersonAda during the war. In 1947, now 76 years old, Maria addressed theUNESCO on Education and Peace and later in 1949 she received theNobel Peace prize.
Maria’slast public engagement was in 1951 in London during her attention ofthe ninth International Montessori Congress. Maria died on 6th May1952 at Pierson’s family holiday home in Netherlands. She passedaway in the concern of her son, Mario whom she bestowed the bequestof her work.
O`Donnell,M. (2014). MariaMontessori.Bloomsbury Publishing.
Pound,L. (2012). Howchildren learn: From Montessori to Vygosky-educational theories andapproaches made easy(Vol. 1). Andrews UK Limited.
Swiderski,M. J. (2011). Maria Montessori. Sourcebookof experiential education: Key thinkers and their contributions.