Mario Montessori

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Mario Montesano Montessori

(1898-03-31)March 31, 1898
Rome, Roma, Italy
DiedFebruary 10, 1982(1982-02-10) (aged 83)
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Known forFounder and Director of the Association Montessori Internationale AMI
MovementMontessori education

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Mario Montessori Sr. (March 31, 1898 - 1982) was an Italian-Dutch educator, author, and advocate for children's rights. He was the son of renowned pedagogist Maria Montessori and played a significant role in promoting and sustaining the Montessori Method of education after his mother's death.[1]

Early Life and Family

Mario Montessori was born on March 31, 1898, in Italy to Maria Montessori and Giuseppe Ferruccio Montesano[2]. His parents, both medical professionals, never married due to societal pressures of their time, and Mario was sent to live with another family during his early years[3]. According to Fred Kelpin's observations, the name "Mario Montesano Montessori" is recorded on his birth certificate. Interestingly, the document lists Giuseppe Montesano as his father, while the entry for his mother is denoted merely as "NN," a convention typically used to keep the mother's identity confidential. Maria Montessori often visited Mario but did not reveal her true relationship to him until he was an adolescent. When Mario learned the truth, he chose to live with Maria[4].

In 1917, Mario married his first wife, Helen Christy, in San Francisco. Together, they had four children:

  • Marilena (1919-2009): Jan Henny (spouse)
  • Mario, Junior (1921-1993): Elly van der Linde (spouse)
  • Rolando (1925-1988): Anne Dege (spouse)
  • Renilde (1929-2012): Jose Luis Matute (spouse)

The marriage ended in divorce in 1936[2], after which Mario remarried Ada Pierson in 1947 in Amsterdam[2].


In 1918, Mario opened a prominent Montessori school in Hollywood, California, which was attended by the children of well-known movie stars. He later moved to Spain with his family to live with Maria Montessori[5].

Mario Sr. started accompanying Maria on her travels and assisting her while still very young. At 17, he came to the United States with Maria, and started to take on the role of personal advisor and business partner. This marked the beginning of a partnership between mother and son that would last until Maria’s death in 1952[6].

He became the director of the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), an organization he and his mother founded in 1929, with a mission to oversee schools worldwide that promoted the Montessori approach, as well as to supervise the training of Montessori teachers[6].

Time in India

In 1939, Mario and Maria traveled to Chennai, India, intending to conduct a three-month teacher training course. However, due to the outbreak of World War II, they were held in India by the British government until the end of the war. Following a brief internment in 1939, Mario was released on Maria's birthday in 1940. They spent the next seven years in India, during which they carried out 16 series of the Indian Montessori Training Courses, where Maria gave lectures in Italian, which Mario translated into English. Their training courses in India resulted in over a thousand trained Montessori teachers[7].

Contribution to Montessori Method

Mario played a significant role in the advancement of the Montessori method. During his time in India, he served as a translator for his mother's lectures, thus making the Montessori approach accessible to a wider audience.

Mario made substantial contributions to the elementary and cosmic education portions of the Montessori approach. He continued to lecture and conduct teacher training courses worldwide after Maria's death. In 1956, he published the book, "The Human Tendencies and Montessori Education"[7]. For his dedication and work on behalf of children and education, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in 1970 by Edgecliffe College.

Later Life and Legacy

Following his mother's death, Mario continued the work of spreading the Montessori approach globally. His second wife, Ada Pierson, also supported his work. Together, they worked to maintain the AMI headquarters in Amsterdam. Mario passed away on February 10, 1982[2]. Ada continued Mario and Maria's work until her death in 1988[2].

Several of Mario's children also made contributions to Montessori education. His son Mario Jr., a psychologist, fought for better Montessori quality education in the Netherlands. His granddaughter, Renilde Montessori, served as the President of AMI until her retirement in 2005[2]. Mario's legacy continues to impact the Montessori movement worldwide.


  1. Kramer, Rita (1976). Maria Montessori: A Biography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 86–90.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 "Mario Montessori Sr". Genealogie Online. Retrieved May 10, 2023.
  3. Standing, E.M. (1957). Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work. Plume.
  4. Kramer, Rita (1976). Maria Montessori: A Biography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 86–90.
  5. The Montessori Family by Fred Kelpin
  6. 6.0 6.1 Montessori, Maria (1967). The Absorbent Mind. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Kramer, Rita (1976). Maria Montessori: A Biography. Addison-Wesley. p. [Page number].