Maria Montessori was born in 1870. Throughout her early years she wanted to be a medical doctor, claiming she would never be a teacher. After focusing on the sciences and engineering during her secondary years she decided to enter Medical school. Turned away by the establishment she persisted until she gained entry.
Her initial work was with mentally challenged children in a psychiatric ward. Through her observations she determined that they were sensorially-deprived so she extended the ideas of Seguin and Itard by providing materials for the children to manipulate. In time, these hospitalized children learned to read and write at advanced levels. Her work gained world-wide attention.
In 1907 she opened the first Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) in Rome Italy, where slum children were enrolled in order to remove them from the streets. Her experimental work produced miraculous results with children using concrete materials and blossoming into abstract learning — far beyond their years. It was a process based on observation of the child followed by the child’s self-education in a prepared environment.
As her insights concerning human development expanded, she became an outspoken activist for equal rights for women.
By the early 30s she was speaking to huge congresses about the nature of a peaceful society that could only emerge from a fundamental shift in the way we educate children.
And in the 1940s, with her son Mario Montessori at her side, she became convinced that every child needs to be immersed in the Story of the Universe as the largest context for living life in an interdependent “cosmic” world.
By the time of her death in 1952 she had developed a comprehensive framework for revolutionizing education — very far from the mainstream of conventional, governmental schooling. Instead of indoctrinating young people to become citizens of a nation her aim was to liberate the child from the entrapment of the adult in order to create a new and harmonious civilization.