An Open Letter to Maria Montessori on Her 150th Birthday

August 31, 2020

Dear Dr. Montessori,

On the occasion of your sesquicentennial birthday, we pause to celebrate you and the indelible influence you have made in our world.

Some might ask, “How can we possibly celebrate in a time like this?” To be sure, these are the times that try one’s soul. Half a year after making its appearance, a terrifying viral pandemic continues to maintain its pernicious grip, killing, to date, hundreds of thousands worldwide; while simultaneously, we are grappling with a pandemic of anti-Black racism and hatred of disenfranchised peoples that has snuffed out the lives of far too many, such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Ahmaud Arbery, Erik Salgado, and many more, for far too long.

And so we respond: It is especially because of the times that we celebrate you, as you were a luminary who shone hope of a new way of guiding children to adulthood through the darkness of the day.

One hundred fifty years after your birth, we celebrate your life, your learning, and your legacy.

Your life, because despite the significant challenges of your own world—which also included a deadly pandemic, as well as the brutality of racism as evident in atrocities such as the “scramble for Africa,” and the horror of two World Wars—your work continued not only steadfastly and unabatedly, but brilliantly;

Your learning, because you taught us that children love to acquire skills and knowledge and are to be treated with respect and kindness; and that in them, lies our hope for the future;

Your legacy, because you modeled how we can innovate no matter what our circumstances, and because you left the Montessori Method as a gift to the world, without restriction.

So, together, on your birthday, we honor you, Dr. Montessori, and take this time to reflect on how we can continue to pay forward and amplify the work that you left in our hands. We endeavor to honor children’s natural tendencies, provide an environment in which they can organically transform, and intentionally lean into matters of justice. Irrespective of today’s challenges, and in fact, in spite of them, we know your influence will help us advance to a kinder and more compassionate, equitable, and just future. The best is yet to come.

With love and respect,

American Monterssori Society

Association Montessori International/USA

The Black Montessori Education Fund

International Montessori Council

Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education

Montessori Asia

Montessori Educational Programs International

Montessori for Social Justice

Montessori Foundation

Montessori Public Policy Initiative

National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector

Many thanks to Dr. Ayize Sabater (The Black Montessori Education Fund) and Dr. Lindsey Pollock (Garden Oaks Montessori Magnet School) for the major role they played in crafting this letter.

Thank you, as well, to artist William John Castello for creating the original portrait of Maria Montessori on this page and gifting it to the American Montessori Society in celebration of her 150th birthday.