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Biography of Maria Montessori - Pioneer of the Montessori System of Education

Updated on April 1, 2019
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Nithya Venkat enjoys writing about animals and their various characteristics.

Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori | Source

"Education of a young child does not aim at preparing him for school, but for life." - Dr.Maria Montessori

Dr. Maria Montessori was born on 13th August 1870 in the town of Chiaravalle. Her father Alessandro was an accountant in the civil service. Her mother was Renilde Stoppani, who was well educated and an avid reader.

In 1875 Maria Montessori joined the local state school on the Via di San Nicola de Tolentino. She was a brilliant student and was very successful in her educational endeavours. She further continued her studies at the Regio Instituto Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci.

The first woman to qualify as a doctor in Italy

Maria Montessori graduated with flying colors. Her parents tried to persuade her to take up a teaching job which was open to women in those days. Maria had other plans; she wanted to become a doctor. Her father was totally opposed to this idea mainly because being a doctor was an all-male profession.

In 1890 with the help of Pope Leo XIII recommendation she was able to get admission to the University of Rome to study Physics, Maths, and Natural Sciences. She completed this course and received her diploma two years after completion of this course.

With the Diploma and along with the help of Pope Leo XIII she was able to get an entry to study the Faculty of Medicine. She became the first woman to enter medical school in Italy.

She was a brilliant student and won many scholarships. She also took private tuitions and used the money from the tuitions to pay for her medical studies.

At the medical school, life was not easy for Dr.Maria Montessori. She had to face the scorns and derisions of her male colleagues. Maria did not let this deter her in any way. She was very dedicated and put her heart and soul into her studies. On 10th July 1986, she became the first woman to qualify as a doctor in Italy.

Endeavors of Maria Montessori

She was then employed by San Giovanni Hospital that was attached to the University. Later that year she represented Italy at the International Congress for Women’s Rights in Berlin. In her speech, she actively spoke for the rights of women. She argued that women should be paid on par with men.

In November 1986 Maria Montessori was appointed as a surgical assistant at Santo Spirito Hospital in Rome. She worked with the poor and especially with children. She was an excellent doctor; she looked after the patients with tender care. Maria diagnosed and treated their illnesses and made sure that they were fed properly.

In 1897 she voluntarily joined a research programmed at the psychiatric clinic attached to the University of Rome. Here she worked with Giuseppe Montesano, with whom she fell in love. As a part of her work, she visited Rome asylums for the insane to treat patients who needed her help. She also visited children’s shelters and found that the children were in need of guidance in the right direction for their overall development and growth.

Dr.Maria Montessori extensively read and researched about mentally retarded children. She studied the works of Jean Marc Gaspard Itard and Edouard Seguin. Seguin was against regimented schools of those times and stressed on the fact that each child should be respected and understood for their individuality. He created various apparatus and equipment to help develop the child’s sensory perceptions and motor skills.

In the year 1898, She addressed the National Congress in Turin and then the National Pedagogical Congress about the lack of provisions for mentally challenged and disturbed children that lead to their delinquency.

Later that year Dr.Maria Montessori was appointed as co-director with Giuseppe Montesano of the Orthophrenic School. She spent two years working and experimenting with materials devised by Itard and Seguin.

The start of Children's Houses

In 1898 Maria gave birth to a child (a love child of Maria Montesano and Giuseppe Montesano). The boy was named Mario, who was left in the care of a family who lived in the countryside. Maria visited Mario very often, and he joined his mother in the later years.

In 1901, Montessori left the Orthophrenic School and studied educational philosophy and anthropology. In 1904 she joined as a lecturer at the Pedagogic School of the University of Rome.

During this period, Rome was growing rapidly, and overambitious business men plunged into constructing many buildings. Some construction companies went bankrupt in this process, and many buildings were left unfinished.

Incomplete buildings in San Lorenzo district was renovated by a group of wealthy bankers and constructed small apartments for the poor people. Parents were out at work the whole day leaving behind their children at home.

Children were without any recreation and very bored. There was no one to look after and engage them gainfully. This led to children behaving in a destructive manner. They spoiled the newly completed buildings. The developers were very upset and approached Dr.Maria Montessori to occupy the children during the day. This lead to Maria Montessori opening her first Casa de Bambini or “Children’s House” on 6th January 1907.

Maria Montessori experimented with different materials with the children. She noted which material that kept the children most occupied and retained it. She realised that children who were in an environment which helped support their natural development were able to educate themselves. She referred to this as auto-education. In 1914 she wrote, “I did not invent a method of education, I simply gave some little children a chance to live.”

Casa de Bambini made great progress and spread rapidly. Soon five-year-olds were reading and writing. Within a year, the Italian speaking part of Switzerland began changing it’s kindergartens into Case Dei Bambini

In 1909 Dr. Monessori gave the first training course in her approach to roughly around 100 students. All her notes from this period were published into a book in Italy that same year. This book was translated into English and introduced in the US as the “The Montessori Method”. This book was soon translated into 20 different languages. Dr. Montessori travelled throughout UK and US and spread the knowledge about the Montessori System.

On returning from the US, she settled in Barcelona, Spain and worked in Seminary-Laboratori de Pedagogia”. All her efforts turned into a great disaster in 1993 when all Montessori Schools in Germany were shut down, and all books by Dr. Montessori were burned in protest.

Dr. Montessori was forced to leave Spain due to the outbreak of civil war. She sailed with her son and his family to the UK.

Maria Montessori's work in India

In 1939 Dr.Maria Montessori and her son Mario went to India to give three months training course in Chennai and then embarked on a lecture tour. With the outbreak of the World War II when Italy joined the side of Germans, Britain interned all the Italians in the United Kingdom and its colonies as enemies.

During that time, Mario Montessori was interned and Dr..Maria Montessori was confined to the Theosophical Society compound.

Later, Maria was put under house arrest in Kodaikanal. Here she pondered upon the relationship among all living things which led to her cosmic education programme for children aged 6-12.

In India, she met and spoke to Gandhiji, Nehru, and Tagore. On her 70th birthday, the Indian Government requested for the release of Mario and for him to join Dr. Maria Montessori. The request was granted and Dr.Maria Montessori and her son Mario Montessori both trained over a thousand Indian teachers.

In 1946 Maria Montessori returned to Netherlands. In 1949 she received the first three nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1951 she attended the 9th International Montessori Congress. This was her last public appearance. She died on 6th May 1952 at the holiday home of the Pierson family in Netherlands.

Educational Approach of Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori believed that each and every child had a unique potential that could be drawn out by using proper educational methods.

She strongly believed in the following -

A child should be brought up in an environment which will help the child grow in the best possible way.

The child should be able to live, learn and have fun without any restrictions that would hinder the child’s growth. The child should be given support as and when needed.

The environment should be changed to adapt to the needs and wants of a growing child.

The Montessori System of Education is famous worldwide, and many Montessori Schools have been established. Needless to say more and more new schools are still being established.

© 2012 Nithya Venkat


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    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      4 years ago from Dubai

      Phoenix2361 thank you.

    • Phoenix2361 profile image


      4 years ago

      A very interesting and informative hub. Well done.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      What a lovely response, Vellur. Thank you. :)

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      7 years ago from Dubai

      Denise Handlon getting to know about Maria Montessori's teaching method at the age of 16, is totally awesome. Even though you did not become a Montessori teacher, you have raised your children with these methods. In the true sense, you are a Montessori teacher. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Thank you for your votes too.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Vellur, my friend, you have touched on a subject dear to my heart. Ages ago, when I was 16, I learned of the Montessori method through a series of interesting events. I was fascinated and read everything about this remarkable woman, as well as volunteering to work with an inner city Montessori preschool. I learned so much and decided I wanted to become a Montessori teacher. That never did happen, but I used her methods to raise my own is part of my philosophy of life.

      Thank you for presenting this well written and important article about the life of Maria Montessori. Rated up and U/I/A

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      7 years ago from Dubai

      Ruchira as you say she was great to think of children at hat age/time and era. Thank you for your visit and votes.

    • Ruchira profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      Hi Nithya, This was an interesting piece of information. Maria sure was a enchanting lady to think of children at that age/time/era.

      Many votes indeed!

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      7 years ago from Dubai

      tillsontitan thank you for your votes, Dr. Montessori is an amazing person.

      teaches12345 yes as you say she has contributed greatly to the education of children. Thank you for your visit and insightful comments.

      Hi!! cclitgirl glad you found this hub interesting, thank you for your visit.

      Kathryn L Hill thank you for stopping by and will be happy to visit your hubs.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      7 years ago from Dubai

      tillsontitan thank you for your votes, Dr. Montessori is an amazing person.

      teaches12345 yes as you say she has contributed greatly to the education of children. Thank you for your visit and insightful comments.

      Hi!! cclitgirl glad you found this hub interesting, thank you for your visit.

      Kathryn L Hill thank you for stopping by and will be happy to visit your hubs.

    • Kathryn L Hill profile image

      Kathryn L Hill 

      7 years ago from LA

      I hope you will check out my Hubs. Some Montesorri schools do not understand her and do not study her books to try to understand where she was really coming from. She had discovered it was Nature at work. The inner life of the child during the second embryonic stage is being formed by the nature of the child. It is hard to understand.... but it is the basis of her work with preschoolers.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      An educative hub about Montessori. I didn't know that she was asked to form a school after the neighborhood kids had vandalized new construction buildings. Very interesting! I always hear rave reviews about Montessori schools today. :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Montessori has it's benefits to young children; all of the creative, free-style play and cognitive challenges are so wonderful. She made such a positive contribution to education of children. Thanks for the history of this educator.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      I have always been fascinated by the "Montessori system" and even used some of her tactics with my own children when they were small. However, I never knew much about Dr. Montessori. This was a great 'biography' of a great lady with many interesting facts!

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      7 years ago from Dubai

      Kathryn L Hill thank you for your visit and am glad you enjoyed.

    • Kathryn L Hill profile image

      Kathryn L Hill 

      7 years ago from LA

      Hello. I loved reading this! I hope you will visit my hubs some time!

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      7 years ago from Dubai

      molometer you are right, learning should be tailored to each child's needs, this will help the child to learn and explore more and more instead of losing interest.

    • molometer profile image

      Micheal is 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Very interesting and useful hub.

      As a teacher in mainstream schools we must tailor learning to each child's needs.

      The Montessori method works along similar paths but isn't constrained by the 'one size fits' all mentality, that permeates many state schools.

      Voted up too.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      7 years ago from Dubai

      billybuc thank you for your visit, her work is ground breaking and has helped children to blossom into what they really are.

      Jackie Lynnley she is a wondeful woman and there is much more between the lines as you say, thank you.

      josh3418 glad you got to know this wonderful woman, thankyou.

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania


      Very interesting read; I have never heard of this person! Another beauty of HubPages! Thanks Vellur!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      7 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Wow, what woman has done more than this...and even time for a little romance and love child! We all can know there is much between the lines of this story and what a tale they could tell I am sure! Voted up, excellent write!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for the history lesson about one of the pioneers of education. Great hub!


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