Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravalle, Italy, in 1870 and in 1896 she became one of the first women to graduate in Medicine at the University of Rome. Later she also graduated in Anthropology and Pedagogy.
As a doctor, Dr. Montessori came in contact with small children through her interest in their development. Through years of exhaustive study, Montessori saw that children construct their own personality through the choices they make while interacting with their environment. She closely observed the way in which children learn – through interacting with their environment and through the materials she designed.
These materials were designed in order to allow the children learn by themselves, through their own efforts and exploration. Her conclusions were founded on a solid base of biology, psychiatry, anthropology, and became an enriching and distinctive focal point in education.
In 1909, the first course for Montessori guides was arranged. In 1912, Alexander Graham Bell and his daughter opened the first Children’s House in the United States and invited Montessori to work with them. It was a time of great growth, during which the American Montessori Association (led by Graham Bell, Mabel Bell and Margaret Wilson) was founded. In 1915 an International Conference was held in Rome.
In 1915, Montessori caught the attention of the entire world with her classroom called “The Glass House” at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition (San Francisco). During this second visit to the United States, she also gave several teacher-training courses and arranged the National Educative Association’s annual conventions called “Kindergarten Union”. The committee that invited her to San Francisco included Margaret Wilson who was President Woodrow Wilson’s eldest daughter.
Montessori’s relationship with Spain
|1913||Her pedagogy is beginning to become known in Catalonia. Joan Palau i Vera is considered the proposal’s promoter.|
|1914||Training in her method is offered for the first time at Barcelona council’s summer courses.|
|1915||The first Children’s House is founded in Barcelona, directed by Montessori’s right hand, teacher Anna Maccheroni.
The first books in Spanish are published (translated by Palau i Vera), amongst others: “The method of the scientific pedagogy” and “Practical Manual of the Montessori method”. In 1915, there are 13 Montessori schools in Barcelona, founded by Maria Montessori herself.
|1916-1917||The Third International Montessori course takes place, with focus on the application of the method in elementary school. The Spanish government invites Montessori to open an Investigation institute in Barcelona.|
|1818||She is appointed director of the Pedagogical seminar-laboratory by the Barcelona council. She was just coming back from the United States where she went to promote her method. Her proposal is rapidly endorsed in Europe and the United States.|
|1924||Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship begins. Barcelona Council’s Montessori school is closed. In the mean time, the Montessori method continues to spread and be applied in different countries in Europe and cities in the United States.|
|1930||The application of the method is vigorously reactivated in Catalonia. Before the Civil War, there were Montessori schools in Barcelona, Sant Cugat, Sbadell, Martorell, Mataró, Igualada, Girona, Tarragona, Villafranca de Penedés, etc.|
From there on, she establishes part of her investigation work in Spain, with a house in Barcelona. In 1929 the Asociación Montessori Internacional (AMI) is founded in Spain as a way of protecting her legacy. Maria Montessori took refuge from the Italian dictatorship in Barcelona in 1933, as she refused to keep working under Mussolini’s regime.
There came to exist more than 70 Montessori schools in the Spanish territory.
Dr. Montessori leaves Barcelona at the beginning if the Spanish Civil War in 1936. She moved to Holland with the AMI headquarters and later to India, invited by the Indian Theosophical Society, where she maintained epistolary exchange with Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore.
At the end of the Second World War, Maria comes back to Holland and begins divulging her ideals again. This is the point where she begins the movement on an international level. She continued her observation throughout her life, through which she deepened her understanding of the child’s development and pedagogy, until her death in 1952.
She was nominated to the Nobel Peace Prize three times: in 1949, 1950 and 1951, having caught the attention of the most brilliant minds of the time such as Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi.