Born in 1870, Maria Montessori was an Italian physician, educator, and philosopher who became an innovative force for educational reform during her lifetime. She was the first woman in Italy to graduate from medical school and she continued on to graduate studies in education. While working in the University of Rome hospital, she treated and studied children deemed to have mental deficiencies. With intensive observation and experimentation, she developed methods which challenged the belief of the day that these children were incapable of being taught. She felt that her insights and methods would be suited to all children and began to look for such an opportunity.
When the city of Rome was grappling with the problem of under school-age children in the city’s new housing projects being left unsupervised by their working parents and generating disturbances in the neighborhood, Montessori offered a solution. In January 1907 she opened the first Casa dei Bambini. The improved behavior and the academic feats of these children were praised in the press as “miracles.” Her first book, The Discovery of the Child, was published in 1909 and she continued to write, train teachers, open schools, and advocate for education reflecting the learning style of a child until her death in 1952. In the 100 years since the first Children’s House, millions of children around the world have been educated using Maria Montessori’s insights and methods.