Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870. At 12, her family moved to Rome. She was encouraged to become a teacher, which was the only profession open to women. In 1896, she graduated as the first woman medical doctor from University of Rome Medical School.
Montessori joined the University’s Psychiatric Clinic, where she had the opportunity to work with mentally deficient children. She felt the need for special education and studied the work of Itard and Seguin. She then became the director of Orthophrenic School for two years. This is where she taught, created some new materials, making notes, and observations on her work. She found that children could learn many things that seemed impossible, despite their challenges. She returned to University to study Psychology.
In 1907, she was given the opportunity to care for a group of children of working parents from low income families at San Lorenzo, Italy. She started working with normal children with the materials she created. She named it Casa De Bambini (ie Children’s House in English). The children in her class were between 2.5 years and 6 years of age. This is where she replaced adult sized furniture and materials to child sized. This is also where her curriculum started to take full shape.
Montessori made her first visit to The United States in 1912 for a brief lecture and she returned again in 1915 to provide a training course in California. It was during this visit that a Montessori classroom was set up in SFO World’s Fair that received much attention.
Between 1916 and 1918 she traveled between Spain and the USA to spread her pedagogy. Except for closures in Nazi and Fascist regimes, Montessori flourished in other parts of the world. Subsequently she moved to Amsterdam where she and her son Mario Montessori started Association Montessori Internationale(AMI), which runs more than 32 training centers around the world and holds an active engagement till date with the United Nations in several aspects.