Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravelle, Italy, on the 31st of August, 1870. In 1894 she was the first woman to graduate in Medicine from the University of Rome, and in 1899 she began a study of educational problems of handicapped children. Working on lines first laid down by the French physian E. Seguin, she achieved excellent results and the children under her guidance passed the state examination in reading and writing for normal children. Montessori’s involvement with the National League for the Education of Retarded Children led to her appointment as co-director, with Guisseppe Montesano, of a new institution called the Orthophrenic School. The school took children with a broad spectrum of disorders and proved to be a turning point in Montessori’s life, marking a shift in her professional identity from physician to educator. Until now her ideas about the development of children were only theories, but the small school, set up along the lines of a teaching hospital, allowed her to put these ideas into practice. Montessori spent 2 years working at the Orthophrenic School. The relationship with Guisseppe Montesano had developed into a love affair, and in 1898 Maria gave birth to a child, a boy named Mario, who was given into the care of a family who lived in the countryside near Rome. Maria visited Mario often, but it was not until he was older that he came to know that Maria was his mother. A strong bond was nevertheless created, and in later years he collaborated and travelled with his mother, continuing her work after her death. In 1901 Montessori left the Orthophrenic School and immersed herself in her own studies of educational philosophy and anthropology. Montessori grasped the opportunity of working with normal children and, bringing some of the educational materials she had developed at the Orthophrenic School, she established her first Casa dei Bambini or ‘Children’s House’, which opened on the 6th January 1907. She put many...
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