5 Fun Facts about Maria Montessori
1. Maria Montessori was the first female physician in Italy. Despite being met with hostility from some medical students and professors because of her gender, she graduated in 1896 to be the first woman with a doctor of medicine in Italy.
2. Many of the materials children use in a Montessori classroom today were originally designed for children with learning disabilities. Prior to pioneering Montessori education, Maria Montessori worked with mentally disabled children. These children were excluded from society and were unable to read, write, and perform basic math skills. Maria Montessori worked with a wood craftsman to develop many learning aids, such as the sandpaper letters and numbers, which are popular in Montessori classrooms today. This allowed these children to make the audible sound associated with each symbol as they traced them, and resulted in these children learning to read and write. After her success with children with learning differences, Dr. Montessori decided to turn her attention to children who inhabited the rest of society.
3. Under fascism, Montessori schools were shuttered across Europe. Both Hitler and Mussolini closed Montessori schools and burned books of her work during World War II. Maria Montessori fled to India during the war, where she lead many teacher trainings.
4. While in India, Dr. Montessori and Gandhi often met to discuss the role of children and their education in promoting world peace.
5. Maria Montessori was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times. Despite the turmoil of Dr. Montessori’s life, her ceaseless perseverance has made her one of the most famous women in the world. She died, not in her home country of Italy, but in the Netherlands in 1952. To this day, the headquarters of the International Montessori Association, or AMI, is in the Netherlands and teachers such as myself strive every day from every corner of the earth to carry on her legacy of peace and inclusiveness.