Continuing with part three, the last part of Dr. Montessori’s life and work.
In 1909 Dr. Montessori hosted her first training course in Rome and started writing “The Montessori Method,” This book translated into over 20 languages. After the US release, the book reached 2nd place of the year’s nonfiction bestsellers.
Further schools were opened. Dr. Montessori lectured her Method and eventually gave up her medical practice in 1911 to fully concentrate on the children. Eventually, Dr. Montessori left the first school and opened another one in her home, next to her neighbor and friend, Erik Erikson. In 1913 with the help of Queen Margarita, a now 43-year-old Dr. Montessori held her first International training course. Some of those attending were Alexander Graham Bell, S.S. McClure, and President Wilson’s daughter Margaret Woodrow Wilson. Many followed in the years to come – for example, her friend and developmental psychologist Jean Piaget.
In 1915 Dr. Montessori’s started her third International training course in Los Angeles, finishing it in San Francisco just in time for the “Pan Pacific Exhibition.” The exhibition was a success. The lectures to her Method were sold out in no time. Maria Montessori opened a glass classroom for interested people to observe how a Casa dei Bambini worked firsthand. The demand to get one’s child into this class was so high that a lottery was held. This glass classroom was one of the favorite exhibits. Dr. Montessori won the only two gold medals available for education.
“… I did not invent a method of education, I simply gave some little children a chance to live.” (A Centenary Anthology, page 27)
In the years from 1916 to 1936, many training courses were held, and schools opened worldwide. In 1929 the first International Montessori Congress was held in Denmark. AMI (Association Montessori International) was founded to protect the principle of the Method and further the child’s rights.
When Adolf Hitler came to power, the Montessori Method was banned in Germany, Austria, and Italy. In a single day, all schools were closed. The books were burned, and the headquarters eventually relocated from Berlin to Amsterdam. Even though forbidden in some countries, the Montessori Method continued to be practiced and developed. It was known as a “universal, scientific method based on the child’s development, observation and understanding.
In 1935 the Montessori family feared for their lives; the decision to leave Barcelona was made. They were planning to go to England the next morning, but as they heard shooting they were sure they would not survive to do so. In the morning, confused why the soldiers had not broken into their home, they saw a note on the outside of their door saying, “In this house lives a friend of children- leave her alone!” Grateful, the family left and fled to England and then further to the Netherlands, where they received permanent residency.
In 1939 Dr. Montessori and her son Mario were invited by the theosophical society to hold a training course and tour India. While in India, war was declared. Maria and Mario Montessori were declared enemies of the state. Dr. Montessori was confined to the property of the theosophical society, and Mario was imprisoned. On August thirty-first, 1940, Dr. Montessori’s 70th birthday, Mario was released, but he too had to stay on the grounds of the theosophical society. Mother and son had to stay in India until 1946
During their six-year stay, Dr. Montessori worked on creating a curriculum for older children and trained over 2,000 new directresses that all came to India to see her.
From 1949 to 1951, Dr. Montessori was honored with three nominations for the Nobel peace prize. In 1951 she attended the ninth International Montessori Congress in London, followed by her last training course in Austria.
On May sixth 1952, at the age of 82, Maria Montessori suddenly, but peacefully died in the Netherlands right after discussing future training courses abroad.
Mario Montessori and his children continued her legacy with as much passion and love as she had all these years.
The Montessori Method continues to be practiced in schools all over the world. This scientific study of human development still surprises newcomers every day.
For Dr. Montessori, one thing was always clear “One becomes a well-balanced adult only if one had fully been a child” (A Centenary Anthology, page 50)