1912-1963

Montessori methods were first brought to the U.S. in 1912 by Dr. Maria Montessori. A fledgling American Montessori Society was created with Alexander Graham Bell as its president and Margaret Wilson, daughter of President Woodrow Wilson, as its secretary. Nearly 100 Montessori schools were established but, after an initial wave of enthusiasm, interest waned and the schools and the society soon disappeared.

In 1953, a young American woman named Nancy McCormick Rambusch attended an international Montessori congress in Paris. Impressed by the congress, she wondered why Montessori education had vanished from the United States. Mrs. Rambusch took her Montessori training in London and visited Montessori schools in France. She returned to the U.S. and opened a Montessori day school in New York. Then, in 1958 she started the Whitby School in Greenwich, CT.

Two years later, Mrs. Rambusch founded the American Montessori Society (AMS). In 1961, an article about her Whitby school appeared in Time magazine. After its publication, she was swamped with 100,000 letters from people who wanted to start a school like Whitby or enroll their children in one. This marked the beginning of a country-wide groundswell of interest in Montessori education.

Mrs. Rambusch authored a best-selling book about Montessori methods, LEARNING HOW TO LEARN, in 1962. By this time, about two dozen Montessori schools had opened in the United States, including one in St. Louis. All across America, more Montessori schools opened as quickly as foreign-trained teachers could be acquired. This same year, the first Montessori teacher training programs were started in the U.S.

In the fall of 1963, three more Montessori schools opened in St. Louis. Raymond and Mary Felling, the owners and operators of Countryside Day School at 12452 Olive Street Road, were two among many educators interested in starting a Montessori school. The Fellings found property on Ladue Road for a new school, but at first they had difficulty locating a teacher with Montessori certification.