About Dr. Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori was born on 31st August 1870 in in the town of Chiaravalle, Italy. Upon her graduation, Montessori was encouraged to take up a career in teaching, one of the few occupations open to women at the time. But she was determined to enter medical school and become a doctor. Initially she was refused entry, but she was undeterred and on July 1896 became one of the first female doctors in Italy.
In 1900 she was appointed as co-director of a new institution called the Orthophrenic School and it proved to be a turning point in Montessori’s life, marking a shift in her professional identity from physician to educator. Till then her ideas about the development of children were only theories, but the small school allowed her to put these ideas into practice. Montessori spent 2 years working at the Orthophrenic School, experimenting with and refining the materials devised by Itard and Séguin and bringing a scientific, analytical attitude to the work. Through careful and exhaustive scrutiny, she realized that children construct their own personalities as they interact with their environment. She also observed the manner in which they learned as they spontaneously chose and worked with the autodidactic materials she provided.
On 6th January 1907 she established her first Casa dei Bambini or ‘Children’s House’ in Rome. She put many different activities and materials into the children’s environment but kept only those that engaged them. She observed that children who were placed in an environment where activities were designed to support their natural development had the power to educate themselves. In 1914 she wrote, “I did not invent a method of education, I simply gave some little children a chance to live”.
Children in Casa dei Bambini made extraordinary progress and a period of great expansion in the Montessori approach followed. Montessori societies, training programmes and schools sprang to life all over the world, and a period of travel with public speaking and lecturing occupied Dr Montessori. She studied children of all races and cultures in many countries around the world, and experienced the universality of the human development played out before her. She continued her observations throughout her life, widening and deepening her understanding until her death in 1952.