When Maria Montessori was born, August 30, 1870, Italy had just become a united country. During this time girls were not allowed a public education. A girl’s family, and the Catholic Church, determined her education. Women belonged to their fathers, husbands, brothers, and uncles. Women could not have their own bank accounts, own property, or vote.
Maria was 7 years old when Italy first opened its doors to women for public education. This was part of the great changes that were taking place during the recent birth of Italy. Maria Montessori was definitely a woman born for her time. She was able to bend the norms of Italy’s changing society to become an outstanding educator.
Even though Dr. Montessori is known as an innovative educator, she was the first female physician in Italy. From medical school she specialized in psychiatry. During her internship, she worked in mental institutions where she was overwhelmed at the plight of the handicapped, poor and developmentally delayed children. It was from the pain of these lost children that fueled Montessori’s passion to develop a better method for helping the underprivileged. From this experience she developed her educational materials and methods and opened her first Children’s House in Rome’s ghetto. Today, we still benefit from her profound understanding of how infants and young children learn. In fact, many of her methods and theories are being confirmed and rediscovered today.