Amazing Women by Helen Parker (2)
Traditional teachers didn't understand this method. For them, the most important thing was to teach. For us, the most important thing was to learn. We also wanted children to help each other and to learn from their own experiences.
Soon people in other countries wanted to know about my teaching method. Montessori schools were opened in many countries. By 1913, there were more than 100 Montessori schools in the USA. Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, believed in my method and became the leader of the American Montessori Society.
In 1915, I was invited to the USA and spoke at Carnegie Hall, a famous concert hall in New York. In San Francisco, I gave a course for teachers. We made a classroom with 21 students and a glass wall. Thousands of people came to watch our classes.
In Europe, the First World War was destroying many lives. I decided to move to Barcelona in Spain where things were more peaceful than in Italy. I lived there for many years and travelled to many other countries to teach people about my method. In 1929, an international organization was started, the International Montessori Association. The organization encouraged parents and teachers to use the Montessori method.
In 1936, the Spanish Civil War started and I decided to move to Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. There were more than 200 Montessori schools in the Netherlands at that time. I continued to create new educational materials and give talks. I wanted people to use education for peace.
In 1939, I was invited to India to give talks and train teachers. The Second World War started that year and in 1940 the German army attacked the Netherlands. I couldn't go home to Amsterdam, so I stayed in India for several years and created courses for Indian teachers.
For the rest of my life, I continued to train teachers and improve my method. I was given many honours for my work, such as the French Legion of Honour. I was also nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize because I believed in education for peace. I believed that education could improve people's lives. When I looked back at my long life, I was happy that my Montessori schools were able to do this.
1880 - 1968
The deaf and blind woman who became a famous teacher
I became blind and deaf before I learned to speak. With the help of several special people, I learned to communicate. I used my communication skills to teach people about blindness. I also fought for the rights of women and workers.
I was born in 1880, in Alabama, in the USA. When I was 19 months old, I became very sick with meningitis, a disease of the brain. I got better after the illness, but unfortunately I couldn't see or hear any more. I found it very difficult to learn and I became very angry. I was able to think, but I could not communicate my thoughts. It was a very difficult time for me and for my parents.
My mother and father wanted to help me but they didn't know what to do. Fortunately, I began to communicate with Martha Washington, who was 6 years old and the daughter of our cook. We created our own sign language when we played together. I enjoyed learning from Martha, but my mother realized that I needed professional help.
In 1886, my mother learned about the work of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. He was working on the problems of the deaf. Maybe he could help? Bell told my mother about Perkins School for blind people and the school sent a special teacher to our home. Her name was Anne Sullivan.
At first, I was a very difficult student, but Anne Sullivan was very kind to me. One day, we were getting water from the well when Anne drew some signs on my hand. I realized that she was writing the word 'water'. I was so excited! Within a few hours, I could 'read' more than 30 different words. At last, I could communicate with other people and they could communicate with me. Anne helped me to escape from my lonely world.
When I was 8 years old, I went with Anne to the Perkins School for blind people. At the school, I was excited to discover that there were other children like me. We all learned from our teachers and from each other. I learned to read Braille in English and later in several other languages.
In 1894, Anne took me to New York and I studied at several different schools for the blind and deaf. I tried to learn to speak but it was difficult. My voice worked, but I didn't know how to use it properly. Only Anne and a few other people could understand me when I spoke.
I studied hard and, in 1900, I started at university. Anne went with me to every class. She wrote the teachers' words on my hand. In 1904, I became the first deaf and blind person to get a degree. I was so happy and proud. And I knew that I wanted to use my communication skills to help other people.
At first, I worked with organizations that fought for women's rights. Then, in 1912, I started to work with workers' organizations. I discovered that some types of work made people blind. I wanted people to know about this problem, so I wrote a book in Braille about it.
In 1915, I started my own organization, Helen Keller International, which still teaches people about blindness. I wanted everyone to know that in many cases, blindness can be prevented.
For many years, I travelled around the world and talked to groups of people about blindness. I communicated with Anne. She then spoke my words for me. Our talks became very popular and sometimes we earned up to $2,000 a week. We gave the money to organizations that helped blind people.
When Anne became ill, Polly Thomson became my guide. Unfortunately, in 1936, Anne died. She did so much for me and I never forgot her.
With the help of several special people, I wrote 12 books about my beliefs. I became famous because of the talks and the books. Important people wanted to meet me. I even met the King of England and the President of the USA.
Polly Thomson helped me with my work until she became very ill in 1957. After that, Winnie Corbally became my guide and travelled with me to teach people about blindness. Our work was helped by a theatre play, The Miracle Worker about the life of Anne Sullivan. In 1962, it became a popular film.
In 1964, I won an important award from the President of the USA for my work. The year after that, my name was added to the list of the most successful women in the USA - the Women's Hall of Fame. The names of my guides - Anne, Polly and Winnie - should be in that list too. In 1968, at the end of my life, I remembered Anne, Polly and Winnie. I felt proud of our work, which helped blind people around the world.
c. 1919 - 1952
The actress who helped poor and sick people in Argentina
I was a famous actress in Argentina. I helped my husband, Juan Peron, to become President. I used my power to help sick and poor people. I also helped women to get the vote for the first time in Argentina.
I was born in 1919 in Los Toldos in the Argentinian countryside. My mother was a poor country girl, but my father was a rich man from the city. Unfortunately, my father died when I was very young and life was very hard for my family. My mother worked hard to earn money. She made clothes for other people.
Four years after my father died, in 1930, we moved to a small apartment in the city of Junin. Life was very difficult at first, but my brothers and sisters were growing up. Soon they got jobs. With their money, we moved to a larger home and I was able to start school.
I enjoyed school very much, but my favourite lessons were singing and acting. In 1933, I won a role in the school play - I was so excited! From that day, I knew that I wanted to be an actress. It was my dream.
In 1935, when I was 15 years old, my mother found me a place to live in Buenos Aires. It was exciting for me to be in this amazing city, but it was a time of great economic problems. Many people didn't have work and everywhere I went, I saw poor and hungry people in the streets.
Luckily I found a job so I had enough money to pay my rent. During the day I worked and, in the evenings, I joined a theatre group. Soon I was given my first role at the Comedias Theatre and, in 1936, I travelled with the theatre company around Argentina. I also got my first part in a film. I was only 17 years old and I was already an actress!
In 1937, I started working for Radio El Mundo on a popular radio show. Radio El Mundo was the biggest radio company in Argentina and soon my name was well known. Then Radio Belgrano asked me to work for them on their show, Great Women of History. On the show, I played some famous roles - Queen Elizabeth the First of England was one of them.
I was no longer a poor girl from the countryside. Important people wanted to meet me and, by 1942, I had my own apartment in one of the best parts of the city. But then something happened that changed my life forever.
In January 1944, an earthquake hit the town of San Juan. It was terrible because 10,000 people were killed and many more were hurt. Juan Peron was an important political leader. He organized a concert to help the people of San Juan and I was invited to be in it.
After the concert, I talked to Juan Peron and learned about his political ideas. From that day, I had a new dream - I wanted Juan Peron to become the President of Argentina.
On the radio, I talked every day about Juan's work and his ideas. Unfortunately, Juan had powerful enemies and they found him and put him in prison. On my radio show, I asked the people for help and, on 15th October 1945, 300000 people came to the Casa Rosada (the President's house) in Buenos Aires. I stood on a balcony of the house and spoke to the people from my heart. Soon everyone was shouting, 'Free Juan Peron! Free Juan Peron!'
Two days later, Juan was free. And the following day, Juan and I got married - we were so happy! We travelled together around Argentina and we both spoke at political meetings. I told the people that Juan could help them and their families. I also asked them to call me Evita (little Eva). We were a great success and, in 1946, Juan Peron became the President of Argentina.
Suddenly, at the age of 27, I was the President's wife and the 'First Lady' of Argentina. I wanted to work hard and help the people. In 1947, Evita City was built to give homes to poor families. And, in 1948, I started the Eva Peron Foundation, an organization to help poor and sick people.
By 1950, the Foundation had received over $200 million and had 14,000 workers. We also gave out thousands of shoes and cooking materials and built hospitals and schools. I worked day and night and met with thousands of sick and poor people. I wanted to give them hope.
I also wanted women to have more political power. When Juan became President, women weren't able to vote. Juan and I fought to change this and I also started a new political party for women. It was called the Female Peronist Party. By 1951, the party had more than 500,000 women members. With the help of these women, Juan Peron became President for the second time.