Dr Maria Montessori was born on 31st August 1870 in Italy. Her father was an official in the ministry of finance and her mother was well educated for the times.
Her mother encouraged her in pursue of acquiring education and she also had loving relationship with her father although he did not agree with her choice to continue education.
Maria Montessori moved to Florence in 1873 and then to Rome in 1875 because of her father’s work. She entered public school at the age of 6 in 1876. At the age of 13 Montessori entered secondary school and graduated in 1886 with good grades.
She intended to to pursue the study of engineering after graduation which was unusual aspiration for women of that time and place but by the time she graduated she decided to study medicine instead which was even more unlikely considered as a career pursuit by women in those days.
Montessori was strongly discouraged when she appealed to the professor of clinical medicine at the University of Rome. She earned her diploma in Di Licenza in 1892 after passing her exam and that qualified her for entrance into a medical program at the University of Rome in 1893.
She had to face hostility and harassment from some male students in the University for being the only female. She would perform her dissections of cadavers alone in after hours. She won academic prize in her first year and secured a position as a hospital assistant in the second year. She studied pediatric and psychiatry. Maria Montessori graduated as a doctor of medicine in 1896 from the University of Rome.
In the beginning of her career as a doctor Maria Montessori worked and researched about children experiencing a form of mental retardation, illness or disability.
At the same time she began to study, travel, speak, and publish nationally and internationally about the rights of women and mentally disabled children.
In the year 1900 and 1901, Maria Montessori, searched the libraries of Europe to find the work previously done by educationists for children with disabilities and that is when she found out about two French Physicians Jean Itard and Edoward Seguin who later were known to have influenced her the most.
Itard gave her the idea of sensitive periods and the fact that education would benefit from the use of careful observation and experimentation which later became the cornerstone of Maria Montessori’s method.
Seguin had studied with Itard and carried on his research which helped Montessori confirm Itard’s ideas. He developed methodical approach to breaking skills down into small steps and collection of hands-on educational materials.
In 1900 Maria Montessori was appointed as a co-director of the Orthophrenic School which had a laboratory attached to it. It was opened to trained teachers in educating children with mental disabilities. 64 teachers enrolled in the first class, studying psychology, anatomy and physiology of the nervous system, anthropological measurements, causes and characteristics of mental disability, and special methods of instruction.
The model class had children from ordinary schools which were considered uneducable due to their deficiencies but later the same children passed.
During her two years at the school, Montessori developed methods and materials which she would later adapt to use with mainstream children. In 1906 Montessori was invited to oversee care and education of a group of children of working parents. She accepted the invite because she wanted to apply her methods to mentally normal children.
And this is how the first Casa dei bambini was founded in 1907, enrolling 50 to 60 children of 2, 3, 6, and 7 years of age.
The first casa dei bambini was a success with normal children, and a second was opened on 7th April 1907. The children developed concentration, attention, discipline. It was then she decided to experiment with teaching material for writing and reading. Four and five year old children engaged instantly with the material and gained proficiency in writing and reading. Three more Casa dei Bambini were opened in 1908.
Dr Maria Montessori breathed in her last at the age of 81 due to cerebral haemorrhage. She was buried in Roman Catholic Cemetery in Noordwijk, Netherlands.