Who was Maria Montessori?

Who was Maria Montessori?

Maria Montessori was a pioneering scientist, physician and educator who founded the Montessori method of education and inspired people across the world with her holistic, child-centred approach to education.

Maria Montessori – a timeline

1870   Maria Montessori is born on the 31st August 1870, in Chiaravalle, Italy.

1890   Breaking through the traditional barriers for women, Montessori attends a boys’ technical school to pursue her dream of becoming an engineer. However, in 1890, a change of career choice sees her follow her passions to pursue a career in medicine.

1896   Montessori becomes one of the first Italian women to obtain a medical degree.

Montessori represents Italy at the International Women’s Congress in Berlin where she called for equal pay for women.

1897   Joins a research programme at the Psychiatric Clinic of the University of Rome, where she came to work with mentally ill children.

Continues in depth research, observation and analysis in educational philosophy, reading all the major works over the past 200 years and auditing courses at the University of Rome.

1898   Advocates for greater support for children with learning difficulties and puts forward the controversial notion of education for social reform.

1899   Attending the women’s congress in London, Montessori was received by Queen Victoria.

1900   Appointed director of a model school established to train teachers of children with developmental disabilities. Montessori developed a pedagogical approach which resulted in incredible outcomes for these children such that some of them achieved the same results on state exams as typically developing children.

1901   Montessori begins at degree in educational psychology and anthropology at the University of Rome.

1904-1908    Lectures at the University of Rome

1907   Opens the first Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) in the ghetto district of San Lorenzo, for the children of working parents.

1908   Second Casa dei Bambini opens in Milan.

1909   The schools were such a success that in 1909 Montessori delivers her first training course. The success of the Montessori method spreads throughout the world and Montessori travels and lectures extensively on her unique, child centred approach, establishing schools and a loyal following of educators and researchers.

Publishes her first book, The Montessori Method.

1911   Montessori decides to focus on education, giving up her private medical practice and teaching post at the University of Rome.

1913   Montessori runs the first international training course.

First visit to America. Montessori continues to travel the world presenting lectures, running training courses and writing.

1914   Montessori’s third book, Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook is published.

1916   Montessori’s fourth book, The Advance Montessori Method is published.

1926   Montessori advocates for peace at the League of Nations in Geneva. She was to be nominated three times for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1949, 1950 and 1951.

1928   The Child in the Family is published.

1929   First International Montessori Congress in Denmark.

1931   Mahatma Gandhi visits Montessori schools in Rome.

1932   Montessori advocates for peace at the Bureau de l”Education (forerunner of UNESCO).

Second International Montessori Congress in Nice, France.

1933   The Nazis close all Montessori schools in Germany.

Third International Montessori Congress takes place in Amsterdam.

1934   Fourth International Montessori Congress in Rome.

Conflicts with the fascist regime led to all Montessori schools in Italy being closed.

1936   Fifth International Montessori Congress in England.

Development of principals for primary and secondary education.

The Secret of Childhood is published.

1937   Sixth International Montessori Congress in Copenhagen on the theme, educate for peace.

1938   Seventh International Montessori Congress in Scotland.

1939   The ‘Erdkinder’ and the Functions of the University: The Reform of Education During and After Adolescence is published.

Montessori travels to India with her son Mario for a three month training program.

1940   Italy enters the World War II. Montessori and Mario are confined in India for the remainder of the war. This time is used to further develop Cosmic Education for the primary years.

1946   After the war, Montessori and Mario continue to travel the world, lecturing and establishing training courses.

1948   From Childhood to Adolescence is published outlining Montessori’s plan for primary and secondary education.

The Discovery of the Child, To Educate the Human Potential is published.

1949   Eighth International Montessori Congress in San Remo, Italy.

The Absorbent Mind is published in India.

1950   Montessori speaks at the General Conference of UNESCO in Florence.

1951   Ninth International Montessori Congress in London.

1952   Maria Montessori dies May 6 in Noordwijk aan Zee, Netherlands; she is buried at the local Catholic cemetery.


Today more than 25,000 schools across the world and in more than 140 countries embrace Montessori education. Montessori left the world a legacy of a truly universal approach to the education of not just the child, but the whole human being, with a global impact which continues to be felt today.