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American Montessori Society Records [preliminary description] (1907 - 2015)
RepositoryUniversity of Connecticut Library, Archives and Special Collections [preliminary]
Collection ID2006.0230
Size76 linear feet
Collection Description
Maria Montessori (1870-1952), the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree from the University of Rome, developed her theories of education at the turn of the century while working as a young doctor in an asylum for mentally disabled children. In the Montessori method, children use special learning materials to sequentially develop and master concepts and motor skills. Teachers guide but do not control, each child progresses at his or her own pace, and a noncompetitive atmosphere prevails in the classroom. Montessori developed an international following, and in 1913 and 1915 she toured the United States, lecturing on her educational theories to enthusiastic acclaim. But her ideas did not take hold among mainstream U.S. educators.

In the late 1950s Nancy McCormick Rambusch, a young teacher who had undergone Montessori training in London, became inspired with the idea of reviving Montessori education in America. She soon founded Whitby, a lay-Catholic school in Greenwich, CT, which became the flagship school of the American Montessori revival. The Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), the guardian and promulgator of Maria Montessori's ideals, authorized Rambusch to act as AMI's representative in America. This led, in 1960, to the founding of the American Montessori Society (AMS), with Rambusch as its first president.

Rambusch firmly believed that aspects of the Montessori method had to be modified to accommodate the culture of mid-twentieth- century America and its children, and that the movement should not be confined to private institutions. These ideas strained relations with AMI. The philosophical differences could not be reconciled and additional controversies over finances and control deepened the rift. Ultimately, in 1963, AMI withdrew its recognition of AMS as a Montessori society, and from that point until the present AMS has existed independently of AMI.

Rambusch's tireless promotion of Montessori methods was overwhelmingly positive: the number of Montessori schools in America increased rapidly. But AMS was weakened by conflicts, not only with AMI but within AMS itself. This situation was remedied by Cleo Monson, who was hired in January 1963 as Executive Secretary and took over in 1973 as the first National Director. In 1963, six months after Monson arrived, Rambusch resigned as president and embarked upon a distinguished career in children's education that continued until her death in 1994. Also in 1963, the national office of AMS moved from Greenwich, CT to New York, where it has since remained.

AMS published literature about the Montessori method and AMS, sponsored seminars and conferences, collected research, published journals and newsletters, and established the Consultation Program, in which trained consultants would visit affiliated schools. It also developed standards for teacher training and certification as well as pedagogical resources to meet Montessori educational needs. All of these activities are reflected in the contents of the collection.

Newark's Montessori school, The Hilary School, was established in 1965 in space at Saint Stephen's United Church of Christ, Wilson and Ferry Sts. in the Ironbound section. Its mailing address (and office?) was 505 West Market St. The school was founded by dynamic Montessori organizer Lakshmi Kripilani. Kripilani was born in an area of India that later became part of Pakistan. She showed great promise as a student from an early age, and when her family was placed in a refuge camp in India after Partition, she started a school in the camp. She later graduated from Bombay University.

Kripilani met and studied with Maria Montessori and was inspired to devote herself to spreading her mentor's educational methods. She went on to start Montessori schools in Iowa (1964) and in Newark, while earning an MA at Seton Hall University (1965). After teaching in Newark she established and directed the Montessori Center of New Jersey, in Montclair, from which she retired in 1984.
Collection Contents
The collection includes including routine administrative and financial records, program files, research, historical correspondence and writings, teaching materials, official publications, audiovisual materials, and publicity files. The collection's online finding aid (url below) presents the material grouped in 34 series, including several later accessions, but it appears that the collection is unprocessed, and materials from a given series maybe be scattered throughout the collection. Many files are not assigned box and folder numbers.

Fortunately, for ease of access, a substantial number of documents from the collection have been digitized and they are available through the Connecticut Digital Archive (CDA). These provide quite a few references to Newark's Hilary School. A selection of the Newark references in digitized documents in listed below. These can be accessed on the CDA web site:

Filter for the University of Connecticut, and search for "Hilary School," in quotation marks. Notes on the scanned documents indicate which series in the collecton each document comes from. The documents are listed below as they appear in the search results:

Newsletter of the Hilary School, for children 2 ½ to 5 years of age (Apr 1965), with an essay by Kripilani

List of Affiliated Schools, Eastern Region (Sep 15, 1967), Mrs. Joan Dennan is contact for the Hilary School

Report on Regional Meeting of All Day Program Committee, held at Hilary School (417 So. 17th St., Ian Bernstein, Director), November 17, 1972

Report on Affiliated Members (May 1969), p. ix, lists Hilary School. NOTE: A number of other lists of affiliated schools, mostly from the 1960s, include the Hilary School.

AMS Board Minutes, Report on Teacher Training [1965] notes the placement of an intern at the Hilary School

Lakshmi Kripilani, Personal Papers, include a program for a tribute to her, held in Montclair, NJ, December 5, 2010. The program includes a timeline/biography of Kripilani and a color portrait of her

NOTE: The portions of the collection that have not been digitized are likely to include additional references to Newark and New Jersey. See, for example, in Sub-series IVA, Kripilani Papers correspondence from the 1960s, including references to the Montessori Center of NJ; and in Series XXII, Sound Recordings, CD36 a-b, Nancy Rambusch speaking in New Jersey.
FormatsAudio materials; Moving images; Photographic materials; Textual materials
Time Period20th Century
LanguagesEnglish; Spanish
Access policyOpen for research
Finding AidYes
Finding Aid URL