She was born in 1870 in Italy. It comes from a family in which everyone was dealing with science.
In 1896, as the first woman, she graduated from the Medical Faculty in Rome. She had to sit in the last bench and did not allow her to attend anatomy classes just because she was a woman. It was not easy for her to finish the college, yet she was an extremely fighting woman and she succeeded.
As a doctor, she began working in a psychiatric institution for children. She devised her first materials here. She later developed her philosophy, materials and practice for all children, and not just for children with disabilities. She said that it was important to know each child and to guide him through education. She start from every concrete child because everyone is progressing in her own way. That’s why the method is also useful for children with developmental difficulties and for children with no interference.
Psychology, anthropology and pedagogy are the sciences that developed at that time, so her interests were moving in that direction. She was a leader and a feminist movement.
In 1907, the first “Children’s House” was opened, in which she was called to work in the poor part of Rome, in San Lorenzo. Children from the street were gathered and they wanted to wear them with basic practical skills. The original idea was to get these kids out of the street and to be engaged in basic literacy, practical work activities, to influence their parents, changing their habits.
Since children of different ages and different interests came to this “Children’s House”, Maria Montessori had to make sense of how to work with such a heterogeneous group. She had to elaborate her concept, that everyone worked their own way, that everyone worked on their own level. She realized the benefits of this work in a heterogeneous group; first, the elderly child could explain a task to a younger child much better than an adult would do, and the other to prepare children for a life in a heterogeneous group.
She said she wanted to devote her life to those who needed her help most, and that was the children and women. Maria realized that she could help a child is not enough to work only on the medical side, but she realized that she had to be devoted to them from the aspect of psychology, anthropology and pedagogy.
When Mussolini comes she depart from Italy and she never returned to Italy, she was mostly in the Netherlands. By the end of her lifetime, she traveled constantly and thus expanded her program. There is an association founded in 1929 by the AMI – International Montessori Association based in the Netherlands, which exists today.
At the end of her working life, she dedicated her attention to the literacy of adults, she devised the program and was supposed to travel to Ghana to teach the teachers to that method, but died in 1952 in Norway.
She sacrificed a lot in her private life, never married, but had one son. At that time, the position of the woman was very bad and because of the fact that she had an extra-marital child, she would be isolated from society and could in no way be dedicated to her work and to do everything she did. She left her child with her cousins and accept him only when he was 14 years old, since then the position of women improved slightly. And of course, then there were great criticism of her pedagogy, because she talked very much about the importance of the mother’s role and that the mother was very important in the first period of the child’s life, and she completely did the opposite with her child. In that period, some “children’s houses” were closed. And it was always more accepted in countries where democracy was at a higher level.
She responded to these criticisms by explaining that she had only two choices: to devote only to one child or to dedicate her to children of whole world.
The criticism followed also due to the time in which she lived, because of the way she wrote, she gave her thoughts and some methods were often misunderstood. Asked to submit criticism, she said: “Well, if you are being harassed by a dog, you will not stop and give to dog to biting your legs, but you will be rushing forward.”
She pledged her peace in the world and was nominated for the Nobel Prize three times. She wrote a book called “Education and Peace” where she said that “if we want to be peace in the world, then we should teach children how to walk one towards the other, how to cope with nature and how to get things around you “.