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Bringing Montessori to AmericaBringing Montessori to America

S. S. McClure, Maria Montessori, and the Campaign to Publicize Montessori Education

Gerald L. Gutek and Patricia A. Gutek

Narrated by Kevin Murphy

Available from Audible

Book published by The University of Alabama Press

Bringing Montessori to America traces in engrossing detail one of the most fascinating partnerships in the history of American education—that between Maria Montessori and S. S. McClure, from their first meeting in 1910 until their final acrimonious dispute in 1915.

Born on the Adriatic, Montessori first entered the world stage in 1906 as the innovator of a revolutionary teaching method that creates an environment where children learn at their own pace and initiate skills like reading and writing in a spontaneous way. As her school in Rome swiftly attracted attention, curiosity, and followers, Montessori recruited disciples whom she immersed in a rigorous and detailed teacher-training regimen of her own creation.

McClure was an Irish-born media baron of America’s Gilded Age, best known as the founder and publisher of McClure’s Magazine. Against the backdrop of Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose insurgency, the brilliant and mercurial McClure used his flagship publication as a vehicle to advance Progressive Party causes. After meeting in 1910, McClure and Montessori embarked on a five-year collaboration to introduce Montessori’s innovative teaching style in the United States.

Gerald and Patricia Gutek trace the dramatic arc of the partnership between the Italian teacher and American publisher united by a vision of educational change in the United States. After her triumphal lecture tour in 1913, Montessori, secure in her trust of her American partner, gave McClure her power of attorney and returned to Italy. The surge in popularity of Montessori education in America, however, deeply concerned Montessori, who had heretofore exerted total control over her method, apparatus, schools, and teacher training. The American entrepreneurial spirit, along with a desire to disseminate the Montessori method quickly, led to major conflicts between the Italian educator and American businesspeople, particularly McClure. Feeling betrayed, Montessori ended her relationship with her erstwhile collaborator.

Gutek and Gutek describe the fascinating story of this first wave of Montessori education in the United States, which did not sustain itself during Montessori’s lifetime. It would not be until the 1950s that Montessori education was revived with the successful establishment of Montessori academies throughout the United States.

Gerald L. Gutek is a professor emeritus of education at Loyola University Chicago, where he was also the dean of the School of Education. He is the author of Pestalozzi and Education, The Educational Theory of George S. Counts, Education and Schooling in America, The Montessori Method: The Origins of an Educational Innovation, and New Perspectives on Philosophy and Education.

Patricia A. Gutek is the coauthor with Gerald L. Gutek of seven books, including Visiting Utopian Communities: A Guide to the Shakers, Moravians, and Others; Pathways to the Presidency: A Guide to the Lives, Homes, and Museums of the U.S. Presidents; and Plantations and Outdoor Museums in America’s Historic South.


“Exploring information heretofore overlooked, the work studies how Montessori education was influenced by the relationship between S. S. McClure and Maria Montessori, as well as what might have been had the two not experienced their dispute regarding control of the process and resultant feud.”


Bringing Montessori to America is a fascinating book about Maria Montessori and S. S. McClure, the man who brought her to America. This work reads like a novel. There is intrigue, deception, great highs and very low lows in the relationship befitting a great drama.”

Vitae Scholasticae

“There is much to like about Bringing Montessori to America. It provides a personal, behind-the-scenes view of American educational philanthropy and its connections to the burgeoning business of mass media.”

Journal of American History

Bringing Montessori to America is one of the first and perhaps only treatments of the relationship between S. S. McClure and Maria Montessori—a relationship that, had it not gone awry, could have institutionalized Montessori’s promising ‘auto-education’ theory in the United States. This study should be a staple and case study for communications departments across the United States.”

—Karen L. Riley, author of Schools Behind Barbed Wire: The Untold Story of Wartime Internment and the Children of Arrested Enemy Aliens

“The Guteks provide a unique view of McClure’s and Montessori’s power struggle over how to present Montessori’s method, leading to a better understanding of the split between the American Montessori Society and the Association Montessori Internationale. Scholarly without being dense, this engaging book will appeal to a wide range of readers.”

—Martha May Tevis, professor, Department of Education, University of Texas–Pan American

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