Dr Maria Montessori

About Dr Maria Montessori

Montessori Education

Montessori was born on August 31, 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy. Her father, Alessandro Montessori, 33 years old at the time, was an official of the Ministry of Finance working in the local state-run tobacco factory. Her mother, RenildeStoppani, 25 years old, was well educated for the times and was the great-niece of Italian geologist and paleontologist Antonio Stoppani. While she did not have any particular mentor, she was very close to her mother who readily encouraged her. She also had a loving relationship with her father, although he disagreed with her choice to continue her education

Early Education

The Montessori family moved to Florence in 1873 and then to Rome in 1875 because of her father's work. Montessori entered a public elementary school at the age of 6 in 1876. Her early school record was "not particularly noteworthy",although she was awarded certificates for good behavior in the 1st grade and for "lavoridonneschi", or "women's work", the next year.

Montessori moved forward with her intention to study medicine. She appealed to Guido Baccelli, the professor of clinical medicine at the University of Rome, but was strongly discouraged. Nonetheless, in 1890, she enrolled in the University of Rome in a degree course in natural sciences, passing examinations in botany, zoology, experimental physics, histology, anatomy, and general and organic chemistry, and earning her diploma di licenza in 1892. This degree, along with additional studies in Italian and Latin, qualified her for entrance into the medical program at the University in 1893.

She was met with hostility and harassment from some medical students and professors because of her gender. Because her attendance of classes with men in the presence of a naked body was deemed inappropriate, she was required to perform her dissections of cadavers alone, after hours. She resorted to smoking tobacco to mask the offensive odor of formaldehyde. Montessori won an academic prize in her first year, and in 1895 secured a position as a hospital assistant, gaining early clinical experience. In her last two years she studied pediatrics and psychiatry, and worked in the pediatric consulting room and emergency service, becoming an expert in pediatric medicine. Montessori graduated from the University of Rome in 1896 as a doctor of medicine. Her thesis was published in 1897 in the journal Policlinico. She found employment as an assistant at the University hospital and started a private practice

Maria - The first lady doctor of Italy.

The University of Rome did not allow her to enroll in the medical course because she was a woman. Maria decided to study physics, mathematics and natural sciences. In 1892, she passed her examinations and received the Diploma de Licenza that made her eligible to study medicine. , Admission to the College of Medicine was denied because she was a woman. It is said that she was given a seat in the course because of Pope Leo XIII's recommendation.

In the year 1896 Maria presented her thesis to a Board which consisted of ten men. The Board was highly impressed with her work and granted her the degree of Doctor of Medicine. Thus, Maria became the first woman to graduate from a Medical School in Italy.

Maria's initiation into the field of education Casa dei Bambini Casa dei Bambini - The first Montessori School The success of her method with the mentally challenged children in ScuolaOrthofrencia caused Maria to ask questions of 'normal' conventional education and the ways in which children failed in examinations.

In her quest to know more about the workings of the human mind, Dr. Maria Montessori returned to the University of Rome. This time, she pursued psychology and philosophy. In 1904, she was appointed a Professor of anthropology at the University. Because of her experience at ScuolaOrthofrencia, Maria was asked to open a school for children in a slum development project in the district of San Lorenzo in Rome. A school was established on the 6th of January, 1907 .It was named 'Casa dei Bambini' meaning Children's house. Casa dei Bambini began with sixty children whose parents were workers.

Casa dei Bambini - The first Montessori House of Children.

At the Casa dei Bambini, the children revealed their true nature. Many of them were unbelievable and not what was widely understood as child nature.. Maria developed her system of education through scientific observation of the children's almost effortless ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings, as well as their tireless interest in manipulating materials. Every piece of equipment, every exercise, every method Maria developed was based on what she observed children were doing "naturally" by themselves, unassisted by adults.

Children teach themselves.

This simple but profound truth inspired Maria Montessori’s lifelong pursuit of educational methodology, Child Psychology, Teacher's training, all based on her dedication to furthering the self-creating process of the child.

The first Montessori teacher's training course

Based on her observations and research in ScuolaOrtrofrencia and Casa dei Bambini, Maria Montessori was able to put together a new method of teaching. In the year 1909, Dr. Montessori conducted her first Montessori Course to teachers from around the world. She published the 'Scientific Pedagogy as Applied to Child Education' for Children's houses.In later years this has become “The Montessori Method” Building on the ideas of French educators Dr.JeanItard and Dr.Edouard Seguin, Dr. Montessori proposed stimulation of the child's mind through constructive activities that generated their self-esteem.

Maria Montessori travels to India.

In the year 1939, the Theosophical Society of India extended an invitation to the 69-year-old Maria. She accepted the invitation and reached India the same year. The journey from Holland in those days was very tedious. But this did not seem to trouble Maria. She was full of energy and keen to start work in India.

She made Adayar, Chennai her home and lived there along with her son, Mario. Rukmini Devi, a Bharat Natyam dancer was the founder of the world famous centre for music, dance, and other fine arts – Kalakshetra. Her husband George Sidney Arundale, was the president of the Theosophical Society of India. Dr. Montessori became a good friend of the couple.

The outbreak of the World War II made Maria extend her stay in India. In 1940, when India entered the war, she and her son were interned as enemy aliens, but Maria was allowed to conduct her training courses. She stayed in India after the war till 1946 . She returned to Europe for a brief period. In 1947, she founded the Montessori Center in London. Maria returned to India for a second time the same year. Between 1939 and 1949, Maria Montessori conducted sixteen Indian Montessori Training Courses, with the help of her son Mario. This laid a very sound foundation for the Montessori movement in India. She travelled to Pakistan in 1949 and went back to Europe.

The last days of Maria Montessori

Maria was nominated for the Nobel Peace for three consecutive years, 1949, 1950, 1951. But regrettably the Nobel Prize eluded her on all three occasions.

In 1951, Maria Montessori went to Holland from India. She made Noordwijkaan Zee, a coastal town, her home. The last few days of Montessori's life were characterized by the same activity and zeal she had shown throughout her career. Her long and self-sacrificing labours on behalf of the child came to a sudden end on the 6th of May, 1952. Maria was 82 years when she passed away. Her work lives on till today through the thousands of Montessorians all over the world who are continuing with her good work.

By then the whole world was admiring her work. She could say” I point my finger at the child. But why are you admiring my finger?” Those were almost her last words.