The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the period from birth to the age of six.
Born on August 31, 1870, Maria Montessori became the first Italian woman to graduate in medicine from the University of Rome. In 1897, Maria became an assistant at the psychiatric clinic of the University.
While researching about treatments of mentally deficient children, Maria was interested in the work of two French doctors, Jean Itard and Edouard Seguin. She studied their work and this gave Maria a new direction in her life. She wanted to help the children.
Maria later developed her own education system taking basic ideas from Itard and Seguin. The “Montessori Method” began to take shape. In 1901 Maria returned to the University of Rome to further her studies in education. In 1904 she was appointed Professor of Pedagogic Anthropology at the University.
In 1907, Maria was asked to organize the infant schools that were being built in a rehousing program. The first school was for children aged three to six. She called it “Casa dei Bambini”, the Children’s House.
In the following years, other Children’s Houses were founded. Maria was able to apply her new educational methods to normal children. She realized that if her methods achieved such great results with mentally deprived children, then these same methods would certainly greatly improve the performance of normal children. Visitors came from all over the world to see for themselves the successful and stimulating teaching and learning taking place in the Children’s House.
The Montessori method started to spread all over the world. In 1909, the first Montessori training course was given and private Montessori schools were established in Europe. Maria traveled to England, Spain, Australia, Holland and America giving lectures. Her method was soon endorsed by such people as Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Sigmund Freud, Ghandi and Piaget. Maria was nominated 3 times for the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1950 she became the Italian delegate to UNESCO. She died at Noordwijk, in the Netherlands on May 6, 1952 at the age of 81.