Maria Montessori was born in the town of Chiaravalle, Italy on August 31, 1870. Though most of the information on Maria's childhood seems to be uncertain, with disagreeing dates, contradictions and omissions, I found a majority of the information about her childhood in Maria Montessori: A Biography by Rita Kramer (1976). Her father was Alessandro Montessori who was "an old fashioned gentleman of conservative temper and military habits." (Kramer, 1976, p. 22). He was a soldier in his youth and a civil servant later in life. Her mother was a woman named Renilde Stoppani. She was eight years younger than her husband. For the time period, she was very well educated and loved to read books. This was really incredible because in the town she lived in it was a matter of pride to be able to write one's name. This woman was very patriotic, devoted to the ideals of liberation and union for Italy. Alessandro and Renilde were married in the spring of 1866 and it was only a year later that Maria was born. Maria was considered to be self-confident, optimistic and greatly interested in change. Her parents often had troubles seeing eye to eye on what was best for their "talented headstrong daughter." (Kramer, 1976, chap. 1). As a child Maria had a daily quota of knitting she was to meet. She enjoyed taking her neighbor, a hunchbacked little girl, out for walks. It was also not uncommon for her to interfere in arguments her parents would have. During that time, elementary education was a local affair and the schools were usually dirty and crowded. However, Maria learned very easily and did exceptionally well on exams. In games she was often the leader among the other children and never had trouble holding her own with other adults. As far as her relationship with her parents, she was close to her father, but never hid the fact that it was her mother who encouraged all of her dreams and ambitions.
As far as personal relationships that Maria had, it is mentioned in Kramer (1976) that she had a son, Mario, with a colleague named Dr. Montesano. Why they did not marry is very unclear. Apparently his family and Maria herself were opposed to marriage. Kramer must have had the chance to speak with Mario. He said he was sent to a wet nurse in the country after he was born. He believes it was a plan urged by the couple's mothers to keep the birth a secret. Mario was raised by a family in the countryside of Rome and his mother would visit every once in a while. It was mentioned in Kramer (1976) that Maria and Dr. Montesano agreed to never marry, but Dr. Montesano eventually married someone else. Mario married and had four children, Marilena, Mario Jr., Renilde, and Rolando.
Maria graduated from technical school in 1886. She managed to get high marks in all of her subjects with a final score of 137 out of 150. After that she attended Regio Instituto Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci from 1886 to 1890 (Kramer, 1976). There she studied modern languages and natural sciences. Of all of her classes, her favorite was math. By the time she was ready to graduate, she had decided she wanted to go into the biological sciences. Her family, mostly her father, was shocked and disapproving. It was considered impossible for a woman to be accepted into a medical school. Her father actually stopped just short of forbidding her to study medicine. The following, concerning Maria's attempts to study are recorded in Kramer's Biography of Maria Montessori and also available through the Internet sites listed in the references. She checked first with the University of Rome and spoke with Guido Baccelli. Not surprising, however, they did not admit women into the medical program. She decided instead to enroll at the University of Rome to study physics, mathematics and natural sciences. While other students were reading novels, dreaming of romance and husbands, she was studying as much as possible. In 1892, she passed her exams with an eight out of...