The Queen of My Self

September marks the beginning of the school year. And even if we have not attended classes in ages, we are still affected through our children and grand kids, as well as our own memories.



Dr. Maria Montessori was born in the provincial town of Ancona, Italy in1870, the same year that it became a unified, free nation. The energy of that confluence permeated her personality, resulting in a free and unified person who, defied the traditionally dictated roles and relationships between male and female, teacher and student. From a very early age she operated her life as though she could and would effect it

The greatness of the human personality begins at the hour of birth. From this almost mystic affirmation there comes what may seem a strange conclusion: that education must start from birth.

When she was five, Maria’s family moved to the more cosmopolitan and sophisticated Rome so that she could be exposed to culture and enjoy a better education. At 13 she entered a technical school to study engineering, only to discover that she did not wish to continue on this path. Her family was relieved that she rejected such a masculine study.

Instead, she pursued the study of medicine and became the first woman doctor in Italy. She graduated in 1896 with a score of 100 out of a possible 105. Her diploma had to altered to note her gender.

Immediately after her graduation, heR life took off like a meteor. She was immediately chosen to represent Italy in a Women’s international congress in Berlin. On return she was appointed to be the surgical assistant at Santo Spirito. She was also working at the Children’s hospital and had a private practice.

In 1897 Montessori had a revelation. “I felt that mental deficiency presented chiefly a pedagogical, rather than mainly a medical, problem.” The children she was working with could not be treated in the hospitals. They needed to be trained in schools. Given her new insight she began to transfer her time towards perfecting education in order to meet the real needs of children.

She developed an educational theory, which combined ideas from medicine, education and anthropology. In 1900 she began to direct a small school in Rome for ‘challenged’ youth. There she employed methods that were both experimental and miraculous. “We should really find the way to teach the child how, before, before making him execute a task.”

By 1907 Montessori began to assert the theories and methods of pedagogy that she had been developing. She began by directing a system of daycare centers for working class children in one of Rome’s worst neighborhoods.

The children entered her program as “wild and unruly”. Much to her surprise they began to respond to her teaching methods. She always held them in the highest regard and taught her teachers to do likewise. From the beginning amazing things happened. Children younger than three and four years old began to read, write, and initiate self-respect.

The Montessori method encouraged what Maria saw as the children’s innate ability to ‘absorb’ culture. In her book, The Absorbent Mind. she wrote, “And then we saw them ‘absorb’ far more than reading and writhing…it was botany, zoology, mathematics, geography, and all with the same ease, spontaneously, and with out getting tired.”


…To be continued on Wednesday, September 20th…
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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to

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