Maria Montessori (1870-1952) has been variously described as a brilliant educator, scientist, physician, philosopher, feminist, and humanitarian. She was the first female Italian physician in the modern era. As such, she was given a "menial" task: to try to educate the "street urchins" in Rome. The Montessori Method? of education that she derived from this experience has subsequently been applied successfully to all children and is quite popular in many parts of the world.
Montessori by 1907 had established the first Casa dei Bambini, or Children's House, in Rome. By 1913, there was an intense interest in her method in America, which later waned. (Nancy McCormick Rambusch? revived the method in America by establishing the American Montessori Society in 1960.) Montessori was exiled by Mussolini to India for the duration of WWII, mostly because she refused to compromise her principles and make the children into little soldiers. Montessori lived out the remainder of her life in Holland, which is now the headquarters of the AMI, or Assocation Montessori Internationale. Her son Mario Montessori carried on her work with the AMI until his death in the 1990s.
Aside from a new pedagogy, among the premier contributions to educational thought by Montessori are: observation of the child in the environment, child-sized furniture, the medical or health condition of child as a prerequisite to schooling, delineation of the Sensitive Periods, the importance of the Absorbent Mind, and self-correcting didactic materials (some based on work of Itard and Sequin).