A Brief History of Montessori
Dr. Maria Montessori was one of the most outstanding educators of the 20th Century. She was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome Medical School, and she became interested in education as a doctor treating handicapped children.
The Beginning
The United States
She began her work with normal children in 1907 when she was invited to organize schools in a reconstructed slum area of San Lorenzo, Italy. Maria’s medical background led her to approach education not as a philosopher or educator in the usual sense but as a scientist. She observed children with great objectivity, unbiased by preconceived theories of education. Her open-minded attitude and her great respect for children, combined with her astute powers of observation, enabled Maria to discover universal truths about how children develop. The study of children and how adults can best help children in their development became her life’s work.

Maria created hundreds of materials for children to use, and through careful observation of children working with these materials, she was able to identify the ones which were most conducive to learning and healthy development. Through her experience with children, she was also able to refine methods for adults to use when working with children.

Maria quickly became famous for her remarkable success with children. People came from all over the world to observe her methods. When they returned to their home countries, they invited Maria to come and give lectures about her work.

Maria began to travel widely, lecturing about her discoveries and organizing schools for children and training centers for teachers. She wrote about fifteen books and numerous articles about education. She remained an active international leader in education until her death in 1952.
Montessori Education was introduced into the United States in 1912, with one of the early schools being established by Alexander Graham Bell in his own home. The method proved as successful with American children as it had been with European and Asian children. However, the dominant interest among public school educators in the United States shifted from the development of intellectual skills to “life adjustment” and from the need for limits in the classroom to permissiveness. Thus in the United States, interest in Montessori Education waned even as it continued to flourish in other parts of the world.

In 1953, Nancy McCormick Rambusch reintroduced the Montessori approach to the United States. There has followed a tremendous resurgence of interest in this system of teaching. There are now thousands of Montessori schools in this country. While the majority of them are operated privately without tax support, there is a significant and growing number of public schools which are implementing the Montessori approach in whole or in part.