Maria Montessori – A history
"Love is a gift to mankind which must be treasured and developed to the fullest possible extent, for it is this that unites each and every one of us, and only in this way can we bring about a good, caring, peaceful world." ~ Dr Maria Montessori 1870 - 1952
Dr Maria Montessori was born in Italy where she earned the distinction of becoming the first Italian woman to graduate with a degree in medicine. Her interest in education was sparked when she worked with learning impaired and physically handicapped children at a psychiatric clinic in Rome.
Her early work with mentally impaired children and teacher training resulted in her renown across Europe. In 1907 she established a school for normal children from the ages of three to six in a slum area. Having achieved such unprecedented success with cognitively impaired children, Dr Montessori set about utilising the same methods to educate the under stimulated children of the slum whose parents were often illiterate. At the same time, in order to prove that her methods were equally applicable to children of all backgrounds and abilities, she established another school for learners from more affluent backgrounds. The unprecedented results she achieved soon led to international recognition.
With the establishment of Montessori schools across Europe gaining momentum, Dr Montessori travelled to England, Spain, Australia, Holland and the Americas, where she gave lectures and trained teachers in Montessori methodologies. Her sound blueprint for growing young minds was endorsed and financially backed by people such as Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Sigmund and Anna Freud, Ghandi and Piaget.
By 1936 the rise of Nazi and Fascist ideologies in Germany and Italy, resulted in the closure of her schools in those countries. Undaunted, Montessori founded a teacher training institute in Spain and later relocated to Holland and India, where her philosophies on education were widely disseminated. The war years saw her embarking on a passionate quest for peace through education. She was a three time nominee for a Nobel Peace Prize and in 1950 was appointed as Italy's delegate to UNESCO.
In the 1940's she began travelling extensively to revive the Montessori ideals. Today her legacy lives on with over 7 000 schools and training facilities in North America and thousands more in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.