The Montessori family moved to Rome in late 1874, and in 1876 the young Maria enrolled in the local state school on Via di San Nicolo da Tolentino. As her education progressed, she began to break through the barriers which constrained women’s careers. From 1886 to 1890 she continued her studies at the Regio Istituto Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci, which she entered with the intention of becoming an engineer.

In 1890 Montessori enrolled at the University of Rome to study physics, mathematics and natural sciences, receiving her diploma two years later. This enabled her to enter the Faculty of Medicine, as one of the first women in Italy, and the first to study at the University of Rome.

In September of the same year she was asked to represent Italy at the International Congress for Women in Berlin, and in her speech to the Congress she developed a thesis for social reform, arguing that women should be entitled to equal wages with men.

Montessori’s involvement with the Lega nazionale per l’educazione dei fanciulli deficienti led to her appointment as co-director, with Giuseppe Montesano, of a new institution called the Orthophrenic School. The school took children with a broad spectrum of disorders and proved to be a turning point in Montessori’s life, marking a shift in her professional identity from physician to educator. Until now her ideas about the development of children were only theories, but the small school, set up along the lines of a teaching hospital, allowed her to put these ideas into practice.

In 1904 she took up a post as a lecturer at the Pedagogic School of the University of Rome, which she held until 1908. In one lecture she told her students, “The subject of our study is humanity; our purpose is to become teachers. Now, what really makes a teacher is love for the human child; for it is love that transforms the social duty of the educator into the higher consciousness of a mission”[2].