Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870 and died in Holland in 1952, after a lifetime devoted to the study of child development. Dr Montessori was a true pioneer. The first woman to qualify in Italy as a doctor of medicine, she became increasingly interested in the needs of children. By 1900 she was Professor of Pedagogy at the University of Rome. Her early work centered on women’s rights and social reform and evolved to encompass a totally innovative approach to education.
The name Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, was suggested to Montessori, and the first Casa opened on January 6, 1907, enrolling 50 or 60 children between the ages of two or three and six or seven.
Her success in Italy led to international recognition, and for over 40 years she travelled all over the world, lecturing, writing and establishing training programs. The Montessori method was widely acclaimed and accepted. It was soon imitated, often by well-meaning people who did not have the time or the opportunity to study the system in depth. As a consequence she created the Association Montessori Internationale to promote a true understanding of what is perhaps more a science than a philosophy, and to maintain the high standards Dr Montessori insisted upon.
Good books on Montessori for further reading: The Science Behind the Genius, by Angeline Stoll Lillard, Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work, by E.M. Standing, Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook, by Dr. Maria Montessori, Montessori Madness, by Trevor Eissler