A woman who broke through into the world of science available in her time only to men. “The children were my teachers,” she said, explaining her revolutionary approach to teaching. She created a happy school, and the impressive list of graduates is the best proof that she was right. Maria Montessori.


Maria Montessori and her school

Italy’s sixteenth female doctor. Emancipator. Reformer. Educator. Mistress. Mother. June, the month that marks the beginning of International Children’s Day, is an ideal opportunity to remember the figure of an outstanding Italian woman who, like few others, believed in children’s potential and contributed to its liberation. There is a reason she was considered one of the most inspiring personalities of the 20th century.

Dottoressa - feminist

In 1896, Maria Montessori defended her thesis, “Clinical contributions to the study of hallucinations with antagonistic content.” While still a student, she began working at the university’s psychiatric clinic, where she met her first and only love – Giuseppe Ferruccio Montesano . From someone who has had to struggle for many years with the belief that it is not appropriate for a woman to be a doctor, it is hard not to expect a commitment to the cause of fighting for gender equality. As early as 1896, as a representative of Italy, Maria Montessori attended the Women’s Congress in Berlin, where she made a name for herself with an inspiring speech on the topic of the right to equal pay for women and men, which is still relevant today. Working professionally, she knew the importance of financial self-reliance. When she gave birth to Mario, the fruit of her informal relationship with Giuseppe Montesano, in 1898, wanting to continue working, she was forced to give the child to another family for upbringing. Maria visited her son and, in time, took care of him herself, but did not reveal who she was to him. The truth was only revealed on her 70th birthday, when Mario was already a forty-two-year-old man.

Montessori method

A turning point in Maria Montessori’s career was the opening of the first Children’s Home in the poorest neighborhood of Rome, San Lorenzo, in 1907, which Montessori directed. In two years, she described her teaching methods.  Maria encouraged that children be given the right to develop freely, in which their natural curiosity will not be restrained by the cages of school desks. Being raised in a friendly space, respecting the dignity and autonomy of children, who decided for themselves at an early stage of their development, shaped the personalities of many innovators. Some of the most famous graduates of elementary schools run using the Montessori method include: Gabriel Garcia Marquez (world-famous writer and Nobel Prize winner), Katherine Graham (publisher of the “Washington Post”) , Peter Drucker (father of modern economy, economist), Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia), Will Wright (creator of the game “The Sims”), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (founders of Google), Jeff Bezos (founder and CEO of Amazon.com).

Portrait: Maria Montessori and her school
Maria Montessori’s methods are known worldwide


Maria's Secret

In June, Znak publishing house released a translation of Laura Baldini’s novel “Maria’s Secret. The Life, Love and Passion of Maria Montessori”. We meet the heroine in 1894, that is, while she is still a medical student at Rome’s Università “La Sapienza”, who, full of apprehension, goes to anatomy classes at the university’s dissecting room. Laura Baldini attempts to tell the story of the period in Maria’s life that shaped and inspired her work. To this end, he creates the tragic story of the novel’s secondary protagonist, a fictional character, Maria Montessori’s first patient. Signora Rana, along with her seven children and alcoholic husband, lives in one of the crumbling barracks in the San Lorenzo neighborhood – the same neighborhood where the first Montessori-run school, the famous Casa dei Bambini, will be built in fourteen years. The plot of the novel ends in 1902. Maria, who is already a well-known doctor in Europe, plans to start more studies – this time  pedagogy and psychology. He wants to develop an original educational method and make “schools into places of joy.” The rest of the story was written by Montessorian alumni.


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Maria Tekla Artemisia Montessori

She was born on August 31, 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy. Her father was a finance ministry official. Both parents were well-educated, and as a result, they also emphasized Maria’s education. Because of her father’s work, she often changed her place of residence. 

Some sources say that she did not excel in school, but graduated with good grades. After graduating from high school, she chose to study medicine, which was not a popular field of study among women at the time. 

Source: Wikipedia


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