Maria Montessori, born on 31 August 1870 in Chiaravalle near Ancona, came from a middle-class family. Her father was a soldier. Raised with strict rules of discipline, she was close to her mother who respected her freedom. Although her parents wanted her to become a teacher, Maria decided to study medicine. A disagreement with her father ensued.
In 1896, Maria Montessori became the first Italian woman doctor. She worked for ten years in psychiatry, where she took an interest in so-called "retarded" children. She observed that their deficiencies were less medical than psychological.
In 1901, she began to study psychology and philosophy. In 1906, her professional life took a turn: Maria Montessori began to work with normal pre-school children, for whom she created her teaching method. A year later, Maria Montessori opened her first "children's home" (Casa dei bambini) in the working-class district of San Lorenzo in Rome. This establishment became a research base, an experimental laboratory where Maria Montessori built and tested her method.
She organised international courses from 1913 to promote her teaching method. During her stay in America, The New York Tribune called her "the most interesting woman in Europe". Numerous associations and charities asked her to create children's homes.
From 1939 to 1945, to escape the Second World War and the fascist Italian government, she left to live in India. She took advantage of this to create numerous Montessori schools. In 1952, she returned to Europe, first to Italy, which rehabilitated her, but she preferred to settle in the Netherlands, where she died the same year at the age of 82.
Maria Montessori is remembered as a woman of character. In the Catholic Italy of the 1900s, she became a woman doctor against the advice of her entourage and raised a child conceived out of wedlock.
● Niels Pflüger: Basiskurs Pädagogik, BoD, 2008, 336 p.
● Prospects: Quarterly Review of Comparative Education, Paris, UNESCO, 1994, pp. 173-188
● Rita Kramer, Anna Freud: Maria Montessori: A Biography, Westview Press, 1988.