Born in 1870, Dr. Maria Montessori’s passion for children and education helped pave the way for what we now know as the Montessori Method, which supports children’s natural desire to learn. In honor of Dr. Montessori’s birthday, August 31, we’re highlighting some of her accomplishments and contributions that still influence our classrooms and teachings today, well over a century later!
- Maria became one of Italy’s first female physicians.
After initially being refused, Maria got accepted to the University of Rome in 1890, where she began to study physics, mathematics, and natural sciences. Despite the challenges of working alone much of the time due to the lack of mixed gender classes, she persevered and graduated with honors in 1896 as a Doctor of Medicine.
- Her passion for education began in a psychiatric clinic.
After graduating from the University of Rome, Dr. Montessori stayed to continue her research as a voluntary assistant in the university’s psychiatric clinic. She became intrigued with the children there, diving deeper into research that would lay the foundation for her work in education, especially for those with special needs and challenges.
- Her first school was named Casa dei Bambini or Children’s House.
In 1907, Montessori opened her first school. Months prior, housing developers approached her while building a new apartment complex for low-income families. They wanted her expertise in how to keep the children out of trouble during the day, while their parents worked. Dr. Maria was eager to apply all she had learned and agreed to help care for and educate the children, opening her first school. She created unique activities to support their natural learning development and they thrived. Some of her original practices are still used in modern classrooms.
- Dr. Maria Montessori wrote a bestselling book.
Even in its early stages, the Montessori Method was respected as having a significant influence in the field of early education. Using all her research and school success, she published her first book in 1909. The Montessori Method reached second place on the U.S. nonfiction bestseller list. The book has since been translated into 20 different languages.
- Dr. Montessori founded the Association Montessori Internationale.
In 1929, Dr. Montessori and her son, Mario, established the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) to preserve her educational philosophy and approach to learning. Today, AMI’s mission is to empower communities and teachers through Maria Montessori’s holistic approach, helping all children become unique individuals who make a difference in the world.
- She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times.
A devoted humanitarian, Dr. Maria Montessori received this high honor three times for her advocacy efforts toward more peaceful humanity. Through her studies of educational methods, she declared two principles as the foundation of Montessori pedagogy: (1) the universal characteristics of the human child and (2) the child as a unique, unrepeatable, respectable, and admirable individual to be unconditionally accepted as one of life’s most marvelous expressions.
- She was a devoted social justice activist.
Maria worked to overcome gender discrimination by advocating for children with disabilities. To help break down barriers, she also joined the women’s rights movement early in her career to fight for equal pay. She frequently spoke about the need for better opportunities for women and was recognized in Italy as a leading feminist voice.
Thank you, Dr. Maria Montessori, for all the work you did to shape the educational approach we use in our Montessori classrooms today.
This month, we celebrate her passion for advocating for children, women, and parents in the quest to create a brighter future. She says it takes commitment from all of us to succeed: “We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.”