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  • I Became the First Woman in Italy to Graduate From Medical School

    Who Am I?

    By Anthony Parente

    On August 31, 1870 I was born in the town of Chiaravalle, which is located near Ancona in the Marche region of Italy. At an early age my father was transferred to Rome and it was there that I attended grade school. When I turned 13 I decided that I wanted more out of life. So, I entered the Regia Scuola Tecnica Michelangelo, which was unheard of for a woman. I graduated at the age of 16 and I enrolled in the Regio Instituto Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci.

    Traditionally women could only study to become teachers. Instead, I focused my attentions on engineering. Before I graduated I decided to switch my attention to medical school and study to become a doctor. Did you know that I became the first woman in Italy to attend a medical school when I enrolled at the University of Rome? In 1896 I graduated with honors as a doctor of medicine and surgery becoming the first woman in Italy to become a doctor.

    I immediately began my work as a child psychiatrist. I decided to return to school and study philosophy and psychology. A few years later I was made a professor of anthropology at the University of Rome in 1904. Two years later I stepped down from the university and I quite my medical career to help teach children. I opened a school called the Casa dei Bambini (The Children's House) in Rome. I had many ideas on teaching children and this school gave me an opportunity to implement these techniques.

    From my observations with children I realized that they could learn from their surroundings. Everything I used was geared to help them learn on their own. I showed that children did not need to be in a strict disciplinary system to learn. If you respected them as individuals and used the right methods and techniques children could in fact teach themselves. In my system children as young as four where reading and writing. News spread quickly of my method and soon people were coming to see for themselves. Additional schools were formed throughout Europe. I collected all of my ideas and thoughts and published a book titled "Il Metodo". I traveled throughout Europe giving lectures and training teachers on how to use my method. I visited the United States in 1912 and soon schools were created to teach using my techniques.

    In 1922 I was appointed government inspector of all the schools in Italy. When Fascism ruled Italy I opted to leave and go to Spain. I continued to travel and give lectures and show teachers my method.

    I never had an opportunity to marry although I did have a son out of wedlock when I was a young woman. I passed away on May 6, 1952. I always said that I wanted to be buried in the place I died and that is why my remains can be found in Noordwijk aan Zee, Holland.

    Many people said I was ahead of my time and I revolutionize the way we teach children. I guess you can say it was ironic how I strayed away from teaching to become a doctor and in turn end up being famous for my educational ideas and system. For those of you who haven't figured out my identity I wish to introduce myself.

    My name is Maria Montessori and below you can find more information about my life and my accomplishments.

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