International Women’s Day is annually held on March 8 to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.

This day gives us an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Maria Montessori who campaigned for women’s rights in the early 1900s and was aware of the families’ needs for secure care for their children whilst they were out at work.   I wonder how many are aware that in her inaugural speech on the occasion of opening the second children’s house in 1907 Montessori stated:

Working mothers may safely leave their little children in the Children’s House, which is exclusively reserved for those who are not yet old enough for school. This is a great boon to them since it frees their minds of a heavy burden.  But even this help demands good will on their part in return.  This is explicitly mentioned in the rules posted in the buildings:  “Mother must send their children clean to the Children’s House and assist the directress in her work of education.”

It was also the condition of employment of the Montessori teacher – the directress – to be an “example to the inhabitants of the buildings: … she is strictly obliged to live in the tenement and thus be in close contact with the families of all her pupils.”

Montessori continued to explain that “The parents know that the Children’s House belongs to them and is supported by the rent they pay.  They can go there at any hour of the day to watch, to admire, or to meditate.  It is a constant stimulus to reflection and a source of evident blessing for themselves and their children”

More than a hundred years on, the Montessori community is still campaigning for universal high quality early years provision for children and their families and have similar concerns for the wellbeing of children.  We salute the legacy of Maria Montessori as we continue to fight for the rights and entitlements of all children.