Who was Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was an Italian Medical Doctor who devoted herself to educating the children of Rome's ghettos. She became famous for her visionary methods and insight into how children learn. Her teachings spawned an educational movement, which is enormously popular throughout the world.

Montessori education debuted in 1907 with Maria Montessori’s first school, the Casa dei Bambini, part of an urban renewal project in a low-income district of Rome. The school’s success resounded throughout Italy, and additional schools soon opened in Rome and Milan and then the rest of Europe. In 1909 Dr. Montessori published her landmark book, known by its English-translation title as The Montessori Method.

In 1929, together with her son, Mario, she established the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) to oversee the many national organizations and their schools and to supervise the education of Montessori teachers worldwide.

Dr. Montessori’s early research focused on educating young children, but in the 1920s she turned her attention to adolescence. At this stage of development, she observed students need activity that help them to understand themselves and to find their place in the world. In time Dr. Montessori wove peace education into her curriculum, a result of having lived through two world wars.

The founder of the Montessori Method remained its most prominent advocate into her eighth decade. Shortly before her death in 1952, she was planning a lecture tour of Africa, seeing in that continent a fertile opportunity for growth. Mario then took on the leadership of the Montessori Movement, continuing as its head until his death 30 years later. Two of his children, Mario Jr. and Renilde, carried on the family’s leadership as advocates for the Movement, with Renilde taking an active role in the work of AMI as a trainer, lecturer, examiner and, ultimately, as president of the organization.