Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori: A Brief Biography

—biography written by D. Renee Pendleton


Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was, in many ways, ahead of her time. Born in the town of Chiaravalle, in the province of Ancona, Italy, in 1870, she became the first female physician in Italy upon her graduation from medical school in 1896. Shortly afterwards, she was chosen to represent Italy at two different women's conferences, in Berlin in 1896 and in London in 1900.


In her medical practice, her clinical observations led her to analyze how children learn, and she concluded that they build themselves from what they find in their environment. Shifting her focus from the body to the mind, she returned to the university in 1901, this time to study psychology and philosophy. In 1904, she was made a professor of anthropology at the University of Rome.

 

Her desire to help children was so strong, however, that in 1906 she gave up both her university chair and her medical practice to work with a group of sixty young children of working parents in the San Lorenzo district of Rome. It was there that she founded the first Casa dei Bambini, or "Children's House." What ultimately became the Montessori method of education developed there, based upon Montessori's scientific observations of these children's almost effortless ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings, as well as their tireless interest in manipulating materials. Every piece of equipment, every exercise, every method Montessori developed was based on what she observed children to do "naturally," by themselves, unassisted by adults.Maria Montessori with Child

Children teach themselves. This simple but profound truth inspired Montessori's lifelong pursuit of educational reform, methodology, psychology, teaching, and teacher training—all based on her dedication to furthering the self-creating process of the child.

 

Maria Montessori made her first visit to the United States in 1913, the same year that Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel founded the Montessori Educational Association at their Washington, DC, home. Among her other strong American supporters were Thomas Edison and Helen Keller.

In 1915, she attracted world attention with her "glass house" schoolroom exhibit at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco. On this second U.S. visit, she also conducted a teacher training course and addressed the annual conventions of both the National Education Association and the International Kindergarten Union. The committee that brought her to San Francisco included Margaret Wilson, daughter of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.

 

The Spanish government invited her to open a research institute in 1917. In 1919, she began a series of teacher training courses in London. In 1922, she was appointed a government inspector of schools in her native Italy, but because of her opposition to Mussolini's fascism, she was forced to leave Italy in 1934. She traveled to Barcelona, Spain, and was rescued there by a British cruiser in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War. She opened the Montessori Training Centre in Laren, Netherlands, in 1938, and founded a series of teacher training courses in India in 1939.

 

In 1940, when India entered World War II, she and her son, Mario Montessori, were interned as enemy aliens, but she was still permitted to conduct training courses. Later, she founded the Montessori Center in London (1947). She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times—in 1949, 1950, and 1951.

Maria Montessori died in Noordwijk, Holland, in 1952, but her work lives on through the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), the organization she founded in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1929 to carry on her work.

 

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Dear NAMTA Members, Colleagues and Friends,

We are writing to you all to confirm that NAMTA will complete its final membership year at the end of July 2019. We are pleased to let you know, however, that we are prepared to extend our membership benefits through October, in order to support the October conference in Baltimore and to fulfill our commitments for our other NAMTA services – our final journal, job postings for the upcoming academic year, the NAMTA bibliography, and the NAMTA store.

This year has provided us with the opportunity to reflect on NAMTA’s history and how we have served the Montessori community. In a survey of our members, three areas stood out as most significant: the NAMTA Journals, our conferences through which we introduced outside speakers and non-Montessori voices to the Montessori community, and our open membership.

We have also reflected on our more tangible assets: the full collection of NAMTA Journals; NAMTA publications for teachers, schools and parents; the NAMTA archives which have been made available through our website, and the NAMTA store.

Our goal and our commitment is to make these publications and archives widely available for future generations of teachers and schools. In order to do this, we realize that the materials will need to be digitized and held in a repository that has easy access for the Montessori and the non-Montessori world.

NAMTA’s membership and associates extend globally as well as in North America. We have determined, therefore, that in order to have the publications and archives widely accessible, they should belong to the International Montessori movement. We will therefore be working with AMI and the AMI Global Research Committee to accomplish the digitized publishing of the NAMTA legacy.

This transfer of our assets will mean that NAMTA as a separate organization and affiliate will dissolve. NAMTA has played an important role in fulfilling its mission to support the development of teachers and schools over the years. The Montessori movement is far more complex than it was in 1975 when we were formed as a teachers’ organization and so we hope that by making the NAMTA archives widely accessible, we can continue to support the evolution of the movement.

AMI-USA will be offering regional conferences and continuing to publish journals, both of which have been identified as important to NAMTA members. We encourage NAMTA members to join AMI to be able to receive these benefits as well as connect to the global AMI community and to receive the journals, events and outreach support of AMI. Membership to AMI is open to everyone; for AMI-USA membership information, click here, for AMI Global, click here.

The NAMTA Officers will be working with our attorney to adhere to the procedures for dissolution outlined in our by-laws. We will post this notice on our website and will also keep you updated as we undertake this effort.

In the meantime, we would like to thank you all for your support and engagement in NAMTA’s work and for your continued commitment to the development of Montessori work across the world. It has been an absolute pleasure working with you and we look forward to engaging with you at future AMI events.

Sincerely,
NAMTA Board of Directors,

Jacquie Maughan, Deborah Bricker, Molly O’Shaughnessy,
Gerard Leonard, Sarah Werner Andrews