I’m pretty happy with the latest trend in Google Doodles: the 3 most recent Doodles that have been shown in the United States have honored women!
Today, a Doodle celebrates the 142nd anniversary of the birth of Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. Montessori’s Doodle is only the tenth ever displayed in the United States that recognizes a female creator or innovator; it’s the third such Doodle in the United States in 2012 (compared to 17 Doodles honoring men, so women are making up 15% of the 2012 candidates at this point). And counting up all the logos shown around the entire world, this is the tenth female-focused Doodle of 2012.
Montessori is, of course, known for her educational approach, featured in Montessori schools around the globe. The Montessori philosophy encourages students to learn independently and to have some choice and freedom in their education.
I didn’t know, though, that she was also Italy’s first female doctor, attending medical classes at the University of Rome despite strong gender-based resistance and discouragement. Her medical specialties were pediatrics and psychiatry, giving her the background and the insight that would later lead to the Montessori educational philosophy. She developed this approach while serving as director of a school for children with disabilities, and came to see her ideas as powerful tools for education more broadly. Montessori had the opportunity to test, adjust, adapt, and refine these ideas when, in the early 1900s, she was appointed to oversee a “Children’s House” for children of low-income working parents.
By the 1910s, Montessori’s approach was spreading beyond Rome into more Italian cities and international locations. At this point, she left medical practice behind to create training materials and coursework for others interested in adopting the Montessori philosophy. She, along with her ideas, traveled the world.
In reading and learning more about Montessori this morning, I was impressed by her apparently unending passion and energy for her own education. She attended a technical institute, earning a certificate in physics and mathematics, and intended to go on to pursue engineering before medicine caught her eye. Even after she earned her medical degree and was a practicing physician, Montessori began a self-study of pedagogy before returning to the University of Rome to study philosophy, psychology, and anthropology.