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Montessori, Maria (1870–1952)

Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg

Subject History
Sociology » Social Movements

Place Southern Europe » Italy

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1800-1899, 1900-1999

Key-Topics bibliography, education, feminism, revolution

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.01029.x


In the late nineteenth century Maria Montessori was one of Italy's foremost feminist activists and theorists. She became an international celebrity after 1907 when she opened her first “Children's Home” in Rome and subsequently developed her “scientific pedagogy” for the instruction of children between the ages of 3 and 6. This revolutionary pedagogical method was spelled out systematically in 1909 in her Method and was predicated on the idea that 3-year-old working-class children not only could but indeed did – under the dictate of an inner compulsion – become literate and calculating or computing subjects, capable of taking on the requirements and demands of modern, urban culture. Children arrived to this position with the aid of Montessori's didactic apparatus with remarkable speed. Montessori referred to this learning experience as an “explosion,” a choice of language that links her to avant-garde circles in Rome, including the futurists. Up until she became immersed in the struggle for a reformed pedagogy, Montessori tirelessly fought for Italian women's right to vote (something not granted them until 1948) and to gain access to institutions of higher learning. She herself was the second woman to earn a medical degree in 1896, with a specialization in psychiatry. Montessori's feminism distinguished itself by its particular blend of scientific knowledge and social philanthropy. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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