upon her graduation, montessori’s parents encouraged her to take up a career in teaching, one of the few occupations open to women at the time, but she was determined to enter medical school and become a doctor. in september of the same year she was asked to represent italy at the international congress for women in berlin, and in her speech to the congress she developed a thesis for social reform, arguing that women should be entitled to equal wages with men. the 28-year-old montessori was asked to address the national medical congress in turin, where she advocated the controversial theory that the lack of adequate provision for children with mental and emotional disorders was a cause of their delinquency. 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.
in the summer of 1909 maria montessori gave the first training course in her approach to around 100 students. on 20 december 1912 montessori’s mother died at the age of 72. maria was deeply affected by this event, and in the year following her mother’s death she brought her 14-year-old son, mario, to rome to live with her. one of her last major public engagements was in london in 1951 when she attended the 9th international montessori congress. montessori”, l’italie, rome, august 16, 1896. quoted in rita kramer, maria montessori: a biography (chicago 1976), p. 52.
the montessori family moved to rome in 1875 and the following year maria was enrolled in the local state school. after initially being refused, with the endorsement of pope leo xiii, maria was eventually given entry to the university of rome in 1890, becoming one of the first women in medical school in italy. in 1897, maria joined a research programme at the psychiatric clinic of the university of rome, as a volunteer. in 1898 maria gave birth to mario, following her relationship with giusseppe montesano, her codirector at the school. in 1901 maria began her own studies of educational philosophy and anthropology, lecturing and teaching students.
in an attempt to provide the children with activities during the day to fend of the destruction of property, maria was offered the opportunity to introduce her materials and practice to ‘normal’ children. a period of great expansion in the montessori approach now followed. in 1929, mother and son established the association montessori internationale (ami) to perpetuate her work. in india, maria began the development of her approach to support the 6-12 child through ‘cosmic education’. maria was nominationed for the nobel peace prize in three consecutive years: 1949, 1950 and 1951. her last public engagement was the 9th international montessori congress in london in 1951. maria montessori passed away at age 81 on 6th may1952 in the netherlands, bequeathing the legacy of her work to her son mario.
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