The child of a civil official and a well-educated woman, Maria Montessori was encouraged from a young age to explore her curiosity and initiate her own learning. Particularly gifted in science and mathematics, Montessori pursued further education at The University of Rome, passing her initial degree in Natural Sciences and qualifying for the school’s renowned Medicine program. Amidst cultural norms of the day, Montessori faced significant hostility as a student, but soon gained distinction for her work, graduating in 1896 as one of the first female MDs in Italy.
In her final two years at university, Montessori’s work in pediatrics and psychiatry sparked a lifelong interest in childhood education. Upon graduation, her clinical work exposed her to educational disparities in children with mental deficiencies. Hired to care for inner-city children in Rome, Montessori combined her education and observations to open her flagship Casa dei Bambini in January of 1907. An immediate success, Montessori’s first book, The Discovery of the Child, touted the teachings of her school and propelled the young doctor’s philosophy to an international scale.
As its popularity grew, Montessori traveled the globe, lecturing and giving training courses on her beloved approach. Though civil unrest and economic hardship often stymied the growth of her Method, Montessori schools and societies continued to flourish, strengthened in 1929 with the founding of the Association Montessori Internationale. Amidst a backdrop of international warfare, Montessori adapted her design to focus heavily on peace, ultimately garnering her three nominations for the Nobel Prize. Impassioned even as she aged, Maria Montessori’s final public engagement was at the 9th International Montessori Congress, only months after which she passed away on the 6th of May, 1952, at the age of 82.