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Maria Montessori

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Montessori Restoration and Translation Project

Maria Montessori
Maria Tecla Artemisia Montessori

(1870-08-31)31 August 1870
Died6 May 1952(1952-05-06) (aged 81)
Noordwijk, Netherlands
Resting placeNoordwijk, Netherlands
EducationUniversity of Rome La Sapienza Medical School
  • Physician
  • educator
Known forFounder of the Montessori method of education

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Chiaravalle (Ancona) - birthplace of Maria Montessori in piazza Mazzini
Maria Montessori - plaque on the birthplace in Chiaravalle
Maria Montessori circa 1880

Maria Tecla Artemisia Montessori (/ˌmɒntɪˈsɔːri/ MON-tiss-OR-ee, Italian: [maˈriːa montesˈsɔːri]; 31 August 1870 – 6 May 1952) was an Italian physician and educator best known for philosophy of education and her writing on scientific pedagogy. At an early age, Montessori enrolled in classes at an all-boys technical school, with hopes of becoming an engineer. She soon had a change of heart and began medical school at the Sapienza University of Rome, becoming one of the first women to attend medical school in Italy; she graduated with honors in 1896. Her educational method is in use today in many public and private schools globally.

Life and career

The Life and Legacy of Maria Montessori by Daniel Clifford - PDF

Birth and family

  • Maria Montessori was brought into the world on the 31st day of August in the year 1870 in the Italian town of Chiaravalle.[1]
  • Her father, known as Alessandro Montessori, was a 33-year-old civil servant at the Ministry of Finance who served in the locally run state tobacco factory.[1]
  • Her mother, Renilde Stoppani, who was 25 at the time of Maria's birth, had a progressive education for that era and had a family lineage tied to the well-known Italian geologist and paleontologist Antonio Stoppani.[2][3]

Despite the absence of any specific mentor in her life, Maria had a deep connection with her mother who actively nurtured and encouraged her ambitions. Her father, while loving, was not entirely supportive of her decision to pursue further education.[4]


1883–1896: Journey through Education

Commencement of formal education

In pursuit of her father's career, the Montessori family found their way to Florence in the year 1873, subsequently moving to Rome two years later, in 1875.[1] Young Maria Montessori embarked on her educational journey at the age of 6, enrolling in a public elementary school in 1876.[1] Her initial academic record did not highlight any extraordinary achievements,[5] although she did receive accolades for good conduct in her first grade and for proficiency in "lavori donneschi", a term that translates to "women's work", in the following year.[6]

After moving to Florence in 1873 and subsequently to Rome in 1875 due to her father Alessandro's professional commitments, Montessori enrolled in a public elementary school on Via di San Nicolo da Tolentino in 1876. The years between 1876 to 1882 were rather quiet, devoid of any significant incidents or accomplishments in Maria's life.[1]

Secondary Schooling and University Endeavors

  • By 1883[7] or 1884,[8] at the tender age of 13, Maria Montessori began her educational journey at a boys' secondary school, the Regia Scuola Tecnica Michelangelo Buonarroti. Here, she immersed herself in a wide range of subjects, including Italian, arithmetic, algebra, geometry, accounting, history, geography, and various scientific disciplines.
  • Montessori completed her secondary education in 1886 with commendable grades and examination scores. At 16, she continued her education at the prestigious Regio Istituto Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci, where she dove deeper into subjects such as Italian, mathematics, history, geography, drawing, physics, chemistry, botany, zoology, and foreign languages. Her knack for the sciences, particularly mathematics, began to shine during this time. Interestingly, while most women of her time who pursued secondary education typically aimed to become teachers, Montessori had different plans.[9]
  • Initially, Montessori had aspired to venture into the field of engineering upon her graduation, a highly unconventional ambition for a woman in that era.[9] However, by the time she graduated in 1890 with a certificate in physics–mathematics, she decided to pursue medicine, an even more improbable path considering the societal norms of the time.[9] This decision was met with resistance from both her father and the school administration who initially denied her entry.[9]
  • It is rumored that Pope Leo XIII interceded on Montessori's behalf, and thus, in 1890, she began her undergraduate studies at the University of Rome. In 1892, she embarked on her pursuit of a medical degree.[10][11] This decision marked the beginning of her journey to become one of the first women in Italy to study medicine.[12]

University Years and Medical School

  • Montessori's journey at the University of Rome was riddled with obstacles, largely due to prevailing prejudices against her gender. Her female identity was a source of significant bias from her peers and professors alike.[10]
  • Due to the societal norms surrounding mixed-gender exposure to nudity, Montessori was compelled to carry out her cadaver dissections alone and outside regular hours. Interestingly, she took up smoking tobacco as a means to combat the pervasive smell of formaldehyde.[13]
  • Despite these hurdles, Montessori's academic prowess shone through. By the end of her first year, she was recognized by the University for her exceptional academic achievements.[10]
  • Between 1894 and 1896, Montessori focused her studies on pediatrics and psychology. She worked in the pediatric consulting room and emergency service, honing her expertise in pediatric medicine.[10]
  • In 1895, Montessori was appointed as a hospital assistant, providing her with invaluable clinical experience.[10]
  • On July 10, 1896, Montessori made history by becoming the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome's School of Medicine, earning her Doctorate of Medicine.[10]

Earlier, Montessori had made the ambitious decision to study medicine. Despite strong discouragement from Guido Baccelli, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of Rome, she remained undeterred. In 1890, she began her studies in natural sciences at the University, passing examinations in several subjects including botany, zoology, experimental physics, histology, anatomy, and general and organic chemistry. By 1892, she had earned her diploma di licenza, which, combined with her proficiency in Italian and Latin, qualified her for entry into the medical program in 1893.[12]

Her last two years at the University were primarily dedicated to the study of pediatrics and psychiatry, and she utilized her time in the pediatric consulting room and emergency service to gain proficiency in pediatric medicine.[10] Following her graduation in 1896 as a doctor of medicine, her thesis was published in 1897 in the prestigious journal Policlinico.[14] Subsequently, she accepted an assistant position at the university hospital and started her own private practice.[14][15]

1896–1901: Early Career and Personal Life

During the period from 1896 to 1901, Montessori dedicated her efforts to working with and researching children who were, in contemporary terms, experiencing some form of cognitive delay, illness, or disability, referred to as "phrenasthenic" children at the time.[16] Concurrently, she started to travel, study, speak, and publish her work on both national and international platforms, thereby establishing herself as a strong advocate for women's rights and education for children with learning difficulties.[16]

Immediately after graduating, Montessori secured a position at the San Giovanni Hospital affiliated with the University of Rome.[10] In September of 1896, she was chosen to represent Italy at the International Congress for Women's Rights in Berlin, Germany. Here, she delivered a powerful speech advocating for social reform, particularly arguing that women should receive equal wages as men.[10]

In November 1896, Montessori was appointed as a surgical assistant at the Santo Spirito Hospital in Rome, marking the commencement of her work with the impoverished, particularly their children.[10] In 1897, she joined a research program at the psychiatric clinic of the University of Rome, collaborating closely with renowned psychiatrist Giusseppe Montesano.[10]

On a personal note, March 31, 1898, marked a significant milestone in Montessori's life with the birth of her only child, a son named Mario Montessori (31 March 1898 – 1982).[17] Born from her relationship with Giusseppe Montesano, a fellow doctor and co-director at the Orthophrenic School of Rome, her child's birth brought about significant changes in her personal life.[4] Montessori, determined to continue her professional endeavors, decided against marriage. She wished to maintain her relationship with Montesano in secrecy, on the condition that neither of them would marry anyone else. However, when Montesano succumbed to familial pressure to make a more socially advantageous connection and subsequently married, Montessori felt deeply betrayed and decided to leave the university hospital.[4][18][19]

She was compelled to leave her son under the care of a wet nurse residing in the countryside, missing out on his early childhood. Fortunately, they were reunited during his teenage years, and he proved to be a significant contributor to her research.

Work with Children with Learning Difficulties

Post her graduation in 1896, Montessori continued her research at the psychiatric clinic of the University of Rome, being accepted as a voluntary assistant in 1897. Her work led her to visit asylums in Rome, where she observed children with mental disabilities. These observations became the foundation for her future work in education.[20]

During this time, Montessori was deeply influenced by the works of 19th-century physicians and educators Jean Marc Gaspard Itard and Édouard Séguin. She took a keen interest in Itard's ideas and formulated a more specific and organized system to apply them in the daily education of children with disabilities. The works of Itard and Séguin redirected her focus towards children with learning difficulties. Victor of Aveyron In 1897, Montessori audited university courses in pedagogy and delved into major works on educational theory spanning the past two hundred years.[20]

Public Advocacy

In 1897, Montessori spoke about society's responsibility for juvenile delinquency at the National Congress of Medicine in Turin. The following year, she wrote several articles and addressed the First Pedagogical Conference of Turin, advocating the creation of special classes and institutions for children with learning difficulties and the need for appropriate teacher training.[21]

In 1899, Montessori was appointed as a counselor to the newly established National League for the Protection of Retarded Children. She was invited to deliver lectures on special methods of education for children with intellectual disabilities at the teacher training school of the College of Rome. This was followed by a two-week national lecture tour to capacity audiences that included prominent public figures.[22] Montessori joined the board of the National League and was appointed as a lecturer in hygiene and anthropology at one of the two teacher-training colleges for women in Italy.[23]

Orthophrenic School

In 1900, the National League inaugurated the Scuola Magistrale Ortofrenica, or the Orthophrenic School. This institution served as a "medico-pedagogical institute" for training teachers to educate children with learning difficulties and featured an attached laboratory classroom. Montessori was appointed co-director of the institute.[24] The first batch included 64 teachers who studied a range of subjects, including psychology, anatomy, physiology of the nervous system, anthropological measurements, causes and characteristics of mental disability, and special methods of instruction. Montessori developed methods and materials during her two-year tenure at the school, which she later modified for use with mainstream children.[25]

The school's immediate success attracted the attention of government officials, civic leaders, and prominent figures from the fields of education, psychiatry, and anthropology from the University of Rome.[26] The children attending the model classroom, drawn from asylums and regular schools and considered "uneducable" due to their deficiencies, showed significant progress. Some of these children even passed public examinations that were given to so-called "normal" children.[27]

Personal Life: The Birth of Mario Montessori

During this period, Montessori began a romantic relationship with Giusseppe Montesano, a married Catholic man, who was part of her research team. In 1898, they welcomed their son, Mario Montessori. His exact birth date remains unknown. For the initial years of his life, Mario was raised by an Italian farmer, paid by Montesano, and didn't live with either of his parents.[28] Although both parents visited him regularly, Mario was unaware of his parentage. Mario was eventually recognized by both parents, but it wasn't until 1914 that he learned Maria was his mother.[4][29][30]

Group Photo 1910 - Teaching Staff (possibly Blackfriars Montessori School, USA)
Montessori Gifts American Education Seen by Elementary School Principals Tokyo City Education Society ed. (Sato Publishing Department, 1920)
Montessori Gifts American Education Seen by Elementary School Principals Tokyo City Education Society ed. (Sato Publishing Department, 1920)

1901–1906: Further Studies and Development of Educational Theories

In 1901, Montessori left the Orthophrenic School and her private practice to further her education. She enrolled in a philosophy degree course at the University of Rome, which included extensive studies in what is currently regarded as psychology. Her studies involved theoretical and moral philosophy, the history of philosophy, and psychology.[24] Despite not graduating, Montessori pursued independent study in anthropology and educational philosophy, conducted observational studies and experimental research in elementary schools, and revisited the works of Itard and Séguin, translating their books into handwritten Italian. During this period, she contemplated adapting her education methods for children with learning difficulties to mainstream education.[31]

Her work in the development of what would later be known as "scientific pedagogy" continued over the next few years. In 1902, Montessori presented a report at the second national pedagogical congress in Naples. She published a series of articles on pedagogy in 1903 and 1904. Montessori also conducted anthropological research with Italian schoolchildren during these years.[27] In 1904, she qualified as a free lecturer in anthropology at the University of Rome. She was appointed to lecture in the Pedagogic School at the University, a position she held until 1908. These lectures would later be published as a book titled Pedagogical Anthropology in 1910.[32]

Montessori's work during her tenure at the psychiatric clinic required her to visit Rome's asylums, where she encountered children living in conditions of sensorial deprivation. This experience sparked her interest and led her to work more extensively with these children.[25] Her work started gaining recognition, leading to her speaking at conferences worldwide.

In 1904, Montessori was appointed as a lecturer at the Pedagogic School of the University of Rome and chaired the Anthropology Department until 1908.[10] During this time, she immersed herself in research, particularly studying the works of Jean-Marc Itard, known for his work with the "Wild Boy of Aveyron" (Victor), and his student Edouard Séguin.[10]

Montessori System: Children Using Counting and Geometrical Devices. The child on the left is placing figure cards over the corresponding number of counting sticks; on the right is fitting geometric insets into corresponding holes. His eyes are closed and he decides which hole the cylinder will fit, solely by sense of touch. 1914
Montessori System: Learning 64 Shades of Color: This illustration shows one of the color boxes and the flat spools upon which the different colored threads are wound. 1914
Montessori System: Hook and Eye Frame: Other features of the child's daily business of dressing are taught by means of similar frames. 1914
Picture taken in the first Montessori-school in Holland, The Hague 1915.

1906–1911: Casa dei Bambini and the Proliferation of Montessori's Ideas

The Establishment of the First Casa

In 1906, Montessori received an invitation to manage the care and education of a group of children of working parents in a newly constructed apartment building for low-income families in the San Lorenzo district in Rome. Montessori, eager to apply her methods to children without mental disabilities, accepted the offer.[33] This led to the establishment of the first Casa dei Bambini, or Children's House, which opened on 6 January 1907, admitting 50 to 60 children aged two to six.[34]

The first classroom was equipped with a teacher's table and blackboard, a stove, small chairs, child-sized tables, and a locked cabinet for the materials that Montessori had developed at the Orthophrenic School.[35] The children were guided to engage in practical activities like dressing, undressing, dusting, sweeping, and gardening. They were also introduced to Montessori's educational materials. Despite her other professional engagements, Montessori oversaw and observed the classroom activities, although she did not directly teach the children. The teaching and care duties were provided under her guidance by the building porter's daughter.[36]

Montessori's observations in this environment led to critical insights which formed the cornerstone of her educational approach. She noticed instances of deep attention and concentration, repetition of activities, and a keen sensitivity to environmental order. The children showed more interest in practical activities and Montessori's materials over toys and appeared indifferent to rewards such as sweets. Over time, Montessori saw the emergence of a spontaneous self-discipline among the children.[37]

As a result of her observations, Montessori implemented several practices that became the key elements of her educational philosophy and method. She replaced heavy furniture with child-sized tables and chairs that the children could easily move, and stored child-sized materials on low, accessible shelves. She expanded the range of practical activities to include exercises for self-care and environmental care, such as flower arranging, hand washing, gymnastics, pet care, and cooking.[38] She also implemented larger open-air sections in the classroom, promoting a freer movement between the room's different areas and activities.

In her book[39] she outlines a typical winter's day of lessons, starting at 09:00 am and finishing at 04:00 pm:

  • 9–10. Entrance. Greeting. Inspection as to personal cleanliness. Exercises of practical life; helping one another to take off and put on the aprons. Going over the room to see that everything is dusted and in order. Language: Conversation period: Children give an account of the events of the day before. Religious exercises.
  • 10–11. Intellectual exercises. Objective lessons interrupted by short rest periods. Nomenclature, Sense exercises.
  • 11–11:30. Simple gymnastics: Ordinary movements done gracefully, normal position of the body, walking, marching in line, salutations, movements for attention, placing of objects gracefully.
  • 11:30–12. Luncheon: Short prayer.
  • 12–1. Free games.
  • 1–2. Directed games, if possible, in the open air. During this period the older children in turn go through with the exercises of practical life, cleaning the room, dusting, putting the material in order. General inspection for cleanliness: Conversation.
  • 2–3. Manual work. Clay modelling, design, etc.
  • 3–4. Collective gymnastics and songs, if possible in the open air. Exercises to develop forethought: Visiting, and caring for, the plants and animals.

Montessori observed that when children were given the opportunity to work independently, they achieved new levels of autonomy and became self-motivated, leading to new levels of understanding. She came to view acknowledging and treating children as individuals as a pathway to better learning and fulfilling each child's potential.[39]

Building on her observations, Montessori continued to refine her materials, removing or modifying those less frequently used by the children. She began to view independence as the goal of education, and the teacher's role as an observer and guide of children's innate psychological development.[38]

Dissemination of Montessori Education in Italy

The first Casa dei Bambini was a success, prompting the opening of a second one on 7 April 1907. The children in Montessori's programs continued to exhibit concentration, attention, and spontaneous self-discipline, which started to draw the attention of notable educators, journalists, and public figures.[40] Montessori began to experiment with teaching materials for reading and writing, such as sandpaper letters mounted on boards, movable cutout letters, and picture cards with labels. Children between the ages of four and five engaged spontaneously with these materials and quickly attained proficiency in reading and writing that surpassed what was typically expected for their age. This development attracted even more public attention to Montessori's work.[41] Three more Case dei Bambini opened in 1908, and in 1909 Italian Switzerland began to replace Froebellian methods with Montessori in orphanages and kindergartens.[42]

In 1909, Montessori held the first teacher training course in her new method in Città di Castello, Italy. The same year, she documented her observations and methods in a book titled Il Metodo della Pedagogia Scientifica Applicato All'Educazione Infantile Nelle Case Dei Bambini.[43] Her reputation and work began to spread internationally, and she decided to give up her medical practice to dedicate more time to her educational work and the training of teachers.[44] By 1919, she resigned from her position at the University of Rome, as her growing educational endeavors started to demand more of her time and interest.

Maria Montessori

1909–1915: Global Recognition and Expansion of Montessori Education

Global Recognition

Montessori's innovative teaching methods began to gain international attention as early as 1909. Her work was extensively published worldwide, leading to a rapid spread of her methods. By the end of 1911, Montessori's education method had been officially adopted in public schools in Italy and Switzerland and was being planned for adoption in the UK.[45] By 1912, Montessori schools had opened in many Western European cities, with further expansion planned in countries such as Argentina, Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Switzerland, Syria, the US, and New Zealand.[46] Montessori societies were founded in the United States (the Montessori American Committee) and the United Kingdom (the Montessori Society for the United Kingdom).[47]

Montessori's works were translated and published widely during this period. Il Metodo della Pedagogia Scientifica was published in the US as The Montessori Method: Scientific Pedagogy as Applied to Child Education in the Children's Houses, and quickly became a bestseller.[43] Following editions were published in Britain and Switzerland, along with a revised Italian edition in 1913. Russian and Polish editions were released in 1913, with German, Japanese, and Romanian editions in 1914, and Spanish, Dutch, and Danish editions in the subsequent years. Another work, Pedagogical Anthropology, was published in English in 1913.[48] In 1914, Montessori published Doctor Montessori's Own Handbook, a practical guide to her didactic materials, in English.[49]

Maria Montessori in 1913

Montessori in the United States

Montessori's work was popular and widely publicized in the US in 1911 and 1912, particularly through a series of articles in McClure's Magazine. The first North American Montessori school was opened in October 1911, in Tarrytown, New York. The inventor Alexander Graham Bell and his wife became proponents of Montessori's method, and a second school was opened in their Canadian home.[50]

In December 1913, Montessori traveled to the United States on a three-week lecture tour, showcasing films of her European classrooms and meeting with large, enthusiastic crowds. She returned to the US in 1915, sponsored by the National Education Association, to demonstrate her work at the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, California. A glass-walled classroom was installed at the Exposition, and thousands of observers came to see a class of 21 students. However, following the death of her father in November 1915, Montessori returned to Italy.[51]

Despite the popularity of Montessori and her methods in the US, she also faced opposition and controversy. Influential progressive educator William Heard Kilpatrick, a follower of American philosopher and educational reformer John Dewey, wrote a critical book titled The Montessori Method Examined, which had a significant impact. The National Kindergarten Association also critiqued Montessori's methods. Critics claimed that Montessori's method was outdated, overly rigid, relied too much on sensory training, and provided limited opportunities for imagination, social interaction, and play.[52]

After Montessori left in 1915, the Montessori movement in the US fragmented, and Montessori education was a marginal factor in American education until it experienced a resurgence in 1952.[53]

Maria Montessori & Samuel Sidney McClure 1914

1915–1939: Continued Development of Montessori Education

Spain (1915–1936)

Montessori returned to Europe in 1916 and established residence in Barcelona, Spain. Here, a small government-sponsored program developed into the Escola Montessori, serving children aged three to ten, and the Laboratori i Seminari de Pedagogia, a research, training, and teaching institute.[54] In 1916, Montessori offered a fourth international course, which included materials and methods for teaching grammar, arithmetic, and geometry to elementary school children.[44] In 1917 Montessori published her elementary work in L'autoeducazionne nelle Scuole Elementari (Self-Education in Elementary School), which appeared in English as The Advanced Montessori Method.[55]

Montessori's relationship with the Catalan government was contentious due to political pressures and societal shifts. After 1920, the rise of the Catalan independence movement led to demands for Montessori to publicly support Catalan independence, which she refused, resulting in the withdrawal of official support for her programs.[56] Further political turmoil, including a new military dictatorship in 1924, led to the closure of Montessori's model school in Barcelona. However, in 1933, under the Second Spanish Republic, Montessori was able to conduct another government-sponsored training course, and Montessori education briefly regained government support. In 1934, she published two books in Spain, Psicogeometrica and Psicoarithemetica.[57] With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Montessori left Spain permanently.[58]

Students of the Montessori Lyceum in Rotterdam in the Kleine Comedie, 1941

Netherlands (1917–1936)

In 1917, Montessori lectured in Amsterdam, leading to the establishment of the Netherlands Montessori Society.[59] Montessori education flourished in the Netherlands[60], with more than 200 Montessori schools operating by the mid-1930s.[61] The headquarters of the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) permanently moved to Amsterdam in 1935.[62]

Berlin-Dahlem, Germany, Montessori-Kinderheim


Children educate themselves! Recordings from the Montessori children's home in Berlin-Dahlem! A new method that has proven itself brilliantly in child education and is constantly gaining in importance is the system developed by the Italian doctor and educator Dr. Maria Montessori. The first attempts to establish the Montessori method in Germany were made after the war. The basis of this educational method is to develop lively and independent activity in the child. Even the external furnishings of the Montessori children's houses are appropriately adjusted to the little occupants. All furniture, all objects that are in the rooms are appropriately constructed on the basis of many years of experience. There is no difference between play and work, so the child absorbs everything while playing. The children play and work freely and do what they like. They also do common work, such as tablecloths, serving, clearing, washing dishes, ironing, washing, etc. Caring for plants and animals awakens an understanding of nature. Overcoming difficulties independently gives the children great joy and develops their sense of duty and responsibility. Everything happens without many words and admonitions. In the 7 years of its work in Germany, the German Montessori Society has already produced great results. The conviction that the forces and talents that are in the child should be preserved and awakened is gaining ground more and more in the German teaching and educational system. - The self-made breakfast bread is passed around by the children and taken off the plate with a fork.

Berlin-Dahlem, Montessori-Kinderheim

United Kingdom (1919–1936)

Montessori education in England received both enthusiasm and controversy from 1912 to 1914.[63] In 1919, Montessori visited England for the first time and delivered an international training course, which was well-received.[64] She continued to offer training courses in England every other year until the beginning of World War II.[65]

Italy (1922–1934)

In 1922, Montessori was invited back to Italy by the government to give a series of lectures and inspect Italian Montessori schools. Later that year, Benito Mussolini's Fascist government came to power in Italy, initially extending official support for Montessori education as part of the national program.[66] Mussolini established a Montessori teacher training college in 1927, and by 1929, the Italian government was supporting a variety of Montessori institutions.[67] A pre-war group of Montessori supporters, the Societa gli Amici del Metodo Montessori (Society of Friends of the Montessori Method) became the Opera Montessori (Montessori Society) with a government charter, and by 1926 Mussolini was made honorary president of the organization.[68] In 1927 Mussolini established a Montessori teacher training college, and by 1929 the Italian government supported a wide range of Montessori institutions.[69] However, ideological differences and financial issues led to conflicts between Montessori and the Italian government from 1930 onwards, especially after Montessori's lectures on Peace and Education.[70]. In 1932, Montessori and her son Mario were placed under political surveillance,[71] and by 1933, Montessori resigned from the Opera Montessori. In 1934, she left Italy, and all Montessori activities in the country were ended by the government in 1936.[72] Montessori’s antifascist views caused her to be forced into exile from Italy during Mussolini’s premiership. During her exile, she developed her work Education for Peace in which she expressed her ideal that children are peacemakers and education is the only true means to eliminate war. She expressed that, “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war”[73]

Other Countries

Montessori lectured in Vienna in 1923, and her lectures were published as Il Bambino in Famiglia (The Child in the Family). Between 1913 and 1936, Montessori schools and societies were established in numerous other countries, including France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Russia, Serbia, Canada, India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand.[74]

Living room becomes Montessori Room in October 1939

The Association Montessori Internationale

In 1929, the first International Montessori Congress was held in Elsinore, Denmark, in conjunction with the Fifth Conference of the New Education Fellowship. During this event, Montessori and her son Mario founded the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) to oversee global Montessori activities and to supervise the training of teachers.[75] The AMI also controlled the publication rights of Montessori's works and the production of authorized Montessori didactic materials. Early sponsors of the AMI included Sigmund Freud, Jean Piaget, and Rabindranath Tagore.[76]

Peace Advocacy

In 1932, Montessori spoke on the theme of Peace and Education at the International Peace Club in Geneva, Switzerland[77], and at the Second International Montessori Congress in Nice, France. Montessori held peace conferences from 1932 to 1939 in Geneva, Brussels, Copenhagen, and Utrecht, which were later published in Italian as Educazione e Pace, and in English as Education and Peace.[78] Her lectures were later published in her work Education and Peace. Montessori was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949, 1950, and 1951, receiving a total of six nominations.[79]

Maria Montessori with her son Mario (on the left) and the theosophist George Arundale with his wife Rukmini Devi (on the right), in India, circa 1939

Laren, the Netherlands (1936–1939)

In 1936, after leaving Barcelona, Montessori and her family moved to Laren, near Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Here, Montessori and her son Mario developed new materials including knobless cylinders, grammar symbols, and botany nomenclature cards.[80] During this time, Montessori became more invested in the theme of peace as tensions rose in Europe. She held the 6th International Montessori Congress in 1937, centered on the theme of "Education for Peace", and called for a "science of peace", pointing to the education of the child as a key to societal reform.[81] In 1938, the Theosophical Society invited Montessori to India to give a training course, and in 1939, amid the looming threat of World War II, she and her son Mario left the Netherlands for India, a trip that was initially planned for three months but ended up lasting seven years.[82]

1939–1946: Montessori in India

Interest in Montessori education had been present in India since 1913 when an Indian student attended the first international course in Rome. Several students throughout the 1920s and 1930s had returned to India to establish schools and promote the Montessori method. In 1926, the Montessori Society of India was formed, and by 1927, Montessori's book "The Method" had been translated into Gujarati and Hindi.[83] By 1929, Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore had established multiple "Tagore-Montessori" schools in India, demonstrating the nation's significant interest in Montessori education, which was also strongly represented at the International Congress in 1929.[84]

Maria Montessori in Amsterdam

Montessori herself had been associated with the Theosophical Society since 1899, a group interested in educating India's impoverished communities and drawn to the Montessori method as a means to achieve this.[85] Although Montessori had intended to give a series of lectures at various universities before returning to Europe, the outbreak of World War II and Italy's alliance with Germany led to the British interning all Italians in the UK and its colonies, including Mario Montessori. Montessori herself was confined to the Theosophical Society compound. However, they were reunited after two months and remained in Madras and Kodaikanal until 1946, permitted to travel for lectures and courses.[86]

During her years in India, Montessori and Mario continued to develop her educational method. They introduced the term "cosmic education", an approach for six to twelve-year-olds that emphasized the interconnectedness of the natural world. They also developed educational materials related to botany, zoology, and geography. These efforts led to two books, "Education for a New World" and "To Educate the Human Potential".[87]

In addition, Montessori observed children of all ages during her time in India, leading her to focus on infancy. In 1944, she gave a series of lectures on the first three years of life, which were later compiled into a book titled "What You Should Know About Your Child".[88]

In 1944, the Montessoris were granted some freedom of movement and traveled to Sri Lanka. Montessori attended the first All India Montessori Conference in Jaipur in 1945. In 1946, following the conclusion of the war, she and her family returned to Europe.

Maria Montessori in Amsterdam

1946–1952: Final years

In 1946, Montessori, then 76 years old, returned to Amsterdam. Over the next six years, she traveled extensively throughout Europe and India, delivering lectures and establishing new educational institutions. In 1946, she conducted a training course in London and founded the Montessori Center. However, this center later became independent and was renamed the St. Nicholas Training Center. In 1947, Montessori returned to Italy to revive the Opera Nazionale Montessori and conducted two additional training courses. Later that year, she returned to India and delivered courses in Adyar and Ahmedabad, resulting in the first English edition of her book "The Absorbent Mind". She also introduced her concept of the Four Planes of Development during these courses.[89]

Maria Montessori in Amsterdam

In 1949, Montessori returned to Europe and attended the 8th International Montessori Congress in San Remo, Italy, which included a demonstration of a model classroom. The same year marked the establishment of the first training course for educators of children from birth to three years of age, known as the Montessori School for Assistants to Infancy.[90] She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year and was also awarded the French Legion of Honor and the Officer of the Dutch Order of Orange Nassau. The University of Amsterdam also conferred her with an honorary doctorate.

In 1950, Montessori represented Italy at the UNESCO conference in Florence and delivered presentations at the 29th international training course in Perugia and a national course in Rome. She also published a fifth edition of "The Method" under a new title, "The Discovery of the Child". Once again, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The following year, she participated in the 9th International Montessori Congress in London, delivered a training course in Innsbruck, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the third time.

Montessori played a significant role in the establishment of the UNESCO Institute for Education in 1951. She attended the first preliminary meeting of the UNESCO Governing Board in Wiesbaden, Germany, on 19 June 1951 and delivered a speech in which she advocated for the rights of the child. On 10 December 1951, the third anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UNESCO held a celebration to which Montessori was invited to speak. Once again, she highlighted the lack of a Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

Honorary doctorate for Maria Montessori from the Municipal University of Amsterdam. The degree is awarded by Prof. W.G. Vegting. In the audience behind Mrs. Montessori former minister G. Bolkestein, who also received an honorary doctorate

Montessori played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Institute for Education, being actively involved in its inception in 1951. She was present during the initial meeting of the UNESCO Governing Board on 19 June 1951 in Wiesbaden, Germany, where she gave a significant speech.[91]

In her address, she emphasized the rights of the child, a group she often referred to as the "forgotten citizen" or "neglected citizen."[92][93][94][95][91][96] Her profound statement at the time was:

Remember that people do not start at the age of twenty, at ten or at six, but at birth. In your efforts at solving problems, do not forget that children and young people make up a vast population, a population without rights which is being crucified on school-benches everywhere, which – for all that we talk about democracy, freedom and human rights – is enslaved by a school order, by intellectual rules, which we impose on it. We define the rules which are to be learned, how they should be learned and at what age. The child population is the only population without rights. The child is the neglected citizen. Think of this and fear the revenge of this populace. For it is his soul that we are suffocating. It is the lively powers of the mind that we are oppressing, powers which cannot be destroyed without killing the individual, powers which tend either towards violence or destruction, or slip away into the realm of sickness, as Dr. Stern has so well elucidated.

On 10 December 1951, the third anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Montessori was among the invited guests at the UNESCO commemoration event. As she had done six months earlier before the UNESCO Board of Governors, Montessori used her platform to bring attention to the absence of a "Declaration of the Rights of the Child," asserting, "in truth, the [Universal] Declaration of Human Rights appears to be exclusively dedicated to adult society."[95]

Grave of Maria Montessori (Roman Catholic Cemetery Noordwijk in Noordwijk, The Netherlands


Montessori passed away due to a cerebral hemorrhage on 6 May 1952, in Noordwijk aan Zee, the Netherlands. She was 81 years old.[97]

Facts and Figures

Montessori education has been adopted by a large number of schools around the globe, with different institutions operating independently or as members of various organizations. As such, obtaining precise and accurate figures can be challenging, and the numbers provided here are estimates based on available data:

Montessori Education in the United States

In the U.S., there are estimated to be between 4,000 and 5,000 Montessori schools, serving approximately 120,000 to 150,000 children under the age of 6 and about 35,000 children aged 6 and older. Globally, it is estimated that there are around 22,000 Montessori schools, serving approximately 700,000 children under the age of 6 and around 100,000 children aged 6 and older.

Education in the United States (for comparison):

There are approximately 99,000 public schools (including high schools) and 33,000 private schools, amounting to a total of about 132,000 schools. There are approximately 8,250,000 children aged 3-5 enrolled in pre-K education. For pre-K through 8th grade, there are approximately 37,440,000 students in public schools and 4,220,000 in private schools, totaling around 41,660,000 students. The sources for these estimates include the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), the North American Montessori Teachers' Association (NAMTA), the American Montessori Society (AMS), MontessoriScout, and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The estimated school sizes are based on an average of 30 students aged 6 and under per school and 50 students aged 6 and older per elementary program. The figure for elementary enrollment is a rough estimate, based on around 700 elementary programs. Ongoing surveys are expected to provide more accurate figures in the near future.

Educational Philosophy and Pedagogy

Early Influences

Montessori's theories and teaching philosophies were initially influenced by the work of Jean Marc Gaspard Itard, Édouard Séguin, Friedrich Fröbel, and Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. These educational pioneers all emphasized sensory exploration and the use of manipulative materials in learning.[98][99] Montessori's early work with learning-challenged children at the Orthophrenic School in 1900–1901 adopted Itard and Séguin's methods. This involved training children in physical activities and providing sensory experiences, including introducing letters in tactile form. These activities evolved into the "Sensorial" materials used in Montessori education today.[100][101]

Scientific Pedagogy

Montessori referred to her work at the Orthophrenic School and subsequent psychological studies as "scientific pedagogy," a term prevalent in educational studies of her time. She urged not just observation and measurement of students, but also the development of innovative methods to transform them. She argued that scientific education should be rooted in science, but also transform and improve the individual.[102] She further advocated that education itself should be transformed by science.[103]

Casa dei Bambini

While working with non-disabled children at the Casa dei Bambini in 1907, Montessori began to shape her unique pedagogy. The key elements of her educational theory emerged from this experience, later described in The Montessori Method in 1912 and in The Discovery of the Child in 1948. Her method hinged on her observation of children's freedom to act within an environment prepared to meet their needs. She concluded that children's spontaneous activity in such an environment revealed an internal developmental program. The role of the educator, in her view, was to eliminate obstacles to this natural development and provide opportunities for it to progress.[104]

The schoolroom was equipped with child-sized furnishings and practical life activities such as sweeping and washing tables. Montessori developed her own teaching materials, allowing children the freedom to choose and carry out their own activities at their own pace. In this environment, she noticed significant concentration and the children's innate discipline. The children displayed a strong tendency to order their own environment and showed preference for certain activities over others. Over time, these observations became foundational to Montessori's work.[105]

Further Development and Montessori Education Today

Montessori continued to refine her pedagogy and human development model, extending her work to older children. She proposed that human behavior was directed by universal, innate characteristics in human psychology, identified by her son and collaborator Mario M. Montessori Sr. as "human tendencies" in 1957. Additionally, she identified four distinct periods or "planes" in human development: from birth to six years, six to twelve years, twelve to eighteen years, and eighteen to twenty-four years. Each plane had different characteristics, learning modes, and developmental imperatives, requiring specific educational approaches. During her lifetime, Montessori developed teaching methods and materials for the first two planes and wrote and lectured about the third and fourth. Her influence led to the creation of over 4,000 Montessori classrooms worldwide, and her methods have been adopted by hundreds of public and private schools in the United States.[106]

Montessori Method

The Montessori method, one of Montessori's significant contributions, is an educational approach for young children emphasizing child initiative and natural abilities, primarily through practical play. This method allows children to develop at their own pace and provides educators with fresh insights into child development. Montessori's book, The Montessori Method, presents this approach in detail. Adopting this model, educators establish specific environments to meet the needs of students in three developmentally-meaningful age groups: 2–2.5 years, 2.5–6 years, and 6–12 years. Students learn through activities involving exploration, manipulations, order, repetition, abstraction, and communication. The method encourages children to use their senses to explore and manipulate materials in their immediate environment. Older children deal with abstract concepts based on their developed powers of reasoning, imagination, and creativity.[107]


[1] Italian lira banknote, 1990 issue
Montessori on a 1970 stamp of India

Maria Montessori and Montessori schools have been commemorated on coins, banknotes, and stamps in countries such as Italy, the Netherlands, India, the Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.[108] An aircraft in the KLM fleet, a McDonnell Douglas MD-11 (registration PH-KCB), was named after her.[109][110] In 2020, [2] included Montessori in its list of the Top 100 Women of the Year.[111]


Maria Montessori. The portrait was painted by the artist AlexanderAkopov.[112]

Throughout her life, Montessori published numerous books, articles, and pamphlets. Most of her works were written in Italian, though some were first published in English. According to Kramer, "the major works published before 1920 (The Montessori Method, Pedagogical Anthropology, The Advanced Montessori Method—Spontaneous Activity in Education and The Montessori Elementary Material) were written in Italian by her and translated under her supervision."[113] Many of her later works were transcriptions from her lectures, often translated, and later published in book form. Most of Montessori's works, along with compilations of her lectures or articles, are available through the Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company.

A list of Montessori's major works, with significant revisions and English translations, is as follows:[114][115][116]

Il Metodo della Pedagogia Scientifica applicato all'educazione infantile nelle Case dei Bambini (1909)
Translated as The Montessori Method: Scientific Pedagogy as Applied to Child Education in the Children's Houses (1912) Antropologia Pedagogica (1910)
Translated as Pedagogical Anthropology (1913) Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook (1914) L'autoeducazione nelle scuole elementari (1916)
Translated as The Advanced Montessori Method, Vols. I & II: Spontaneous Activity in Education and The Montessori Elementary Material (1917) I bambini viventi nella Chiesa (1922)
Translated as The Child in the Church: Essays on the Religious Education of Children and the Training of Character (1929) Das Kind in der Familie (1923)
Translated as The Child in the Family (1929) Psico Geométria (1934)
Translated as Psychogeometry (2011) and Psychoarithmetic (2016) L'Enfant (1936)
Translated as The Secret of Childhood (1936) De l'enfant à l'adolescent (1948)
Translated as From Childhood to Adolescence (1973) Educazione e pace (1949)
Translated as Peace and Education (1949) Formazione dell'uomo (1949)
Translated as The Formation of Man (1955) The Absorbent Mind (1949)
Translated and revised as La mente del bambino. Mente assorbente (1952) and The Absorbent Mind (1967) Education for a New World (1947) To Educate the Human Potential (1947)

General Resources

Audio, Video Recordings



Famous Montessori Graduates

Montessori education has produced many notable individuals who have made significant contributions in various fields. Some of the renowned figures who are Montessori graduates include:

  • Joshua Bell – Grammy award-winning violinist and subject of a Pulitzer prize-winning media story.[117]
  • Jeff Bezos – Founder of Amazon.[118]
  • David Blaine – Illusionist and magician.
  • T Berry Brazelton – Pediatrician, child psychiatrist, author, and Harvard medical school professor emeritus.
  • Julia Child – Celebrity chef and author. Her book, 'Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child' mentions her Montessori education.
  • George Clooney – Academy award-winning actor, director, producer, humanitarian, and United Nations messenger of peace.[119]
  • Sean "P Diddy" Combs – Grammy award-winning musician, rap recording artist, and CEO of Bad Boy Records.
  • John and Joan Cusack – Actor and screenwriter, and Academy award-nominated actress, respectively.
  • Anthony Doerr – Author.
  • Peter Drucker – Author, management consultant, "social ecologist", and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • Erik Erikson – Psychologist and author.
  • Dakota Fanning – Actress.
  • Anne Frank – Memoirist and author.
  • Katharine Graham – Pulitzer prize-winning author and former owner and editor of the Washington Post.
  • Friedensreich Hundertwasser – Viennese artist and architect.
  • Helen Hunt – Academy award-winning actress.
  • Helen Keller – Political activist, author, lecturer, awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and one of Gallup's most widely admired people of the 20th century.
  • Beyoncé Knowles – Singer, songwriter, actress, and fashion designer, and 16-time Grammy award-winner.
  • Yo Yo Ma – United Nations Peace Ambassador, winner of 15 Grammy Awards, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom & National Medal of the Arts.
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Nobel prize-winning author.
  • HM Queen Noor of Jordan – UN advisor, humanitarian activist, memoirist, and wife of the late King Hussein of Jordan.
  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis – Former first lady and Doubleday editor.
  • Sergey Brin & Larry Page – Founders of Google, are often cited as Montessori-educated.[120] Page has credited Montessori education for much of his success, saying, "I think it was part of that training of not following rules and orders, and being self-motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world and doing things a little bit differently."
  • Devi Sridhar – Youngest-ever American Rhodes scholar, author, Oxford research fellow, and Oxford lecturer on global health politics.
  • Taylor Swift – Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter.[121]
  • Will Wright – Video game pioneer and creator of the Sims.
  • Prince William and Prince Harry – English Royalty.[122]

The Montessori approach to education has clearly had an impact on these individuals, contributing to their development and success in their respective fields.

Many public figures have been associated with Montessori education, either by attending Montessori schools or being influenced by Montessori principles at home or at other educational institutions. Here are some of the individuals, in addition to those you mentioned:

  • Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, did not attend a Montessori school, but his early education was Montessori-inspired. His mother and grandmother ran a small private school that followed Montessori principles, which Wales has cited as a formative influence on his life and work.[123]
  • King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, also known as Rama IX, attended the École Nouvelle de la Suisse Romande in Lausanne, Switzerland. While this school incorporated Montessori principles in its primary class, it's unclear how much these principles influenced his specific education, as he joined the school at the elementary level.

As for the impact of Montessori education on students' later performance, several studies have suggested positive outcomes. For example, research by Lillard and Else-Quest in 2006 found that Montessori students outperformed their non-Montessori peers in several areas, including academic skills, social understanding, and mastery orientation, and they reported a greater sense of community at their school.

However, it's important to note that the research in this area is challenging, due to factors such as the variation in the implementation of Montessori principles across different schools and the difficulty of conducting controlled experiments in education. Therefore, while these findings are promising, more research is needed to fully understand the long-term impact of Montessori education.

As for the impacts of Montessori education on student performance, your passage refers to a study by Lillard and Else-Quest in 2006, which found that Montessori students outperformed their non-Montessori peers in several areas.[124] This provides some scientific basis for the benefits of Montessori education.


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Further reading

External links