“Love is the Key”
Elisabeth Caspari was born in Chateau d’Oex, a small alpine village in French-speaking Switzerland, on September 9, 1899. By the age of 30 she had, earned a terminal doctoral degree in music and pedagogy from the Ecole Normale de Musique in Lausanne, Switzerland, established a successful music school and married Charles Caspari, an engineer. On a journey to study world religions in Tibet and India 10 years later, the Casparis met and studied with Dr. Maria Montessori in Adyar Madras and Worked with Dr. Montessori for four years in the Hill Station of Kodaikanal.
Elisabeth Caspari had just arrived in India in 1940 when she met Dr. Maria Montessori in Adyar, Madras, where she had gone to train Indian teachers at the invitation of Dr. George Sidney Arundale, President of the Theosophical Society. On that occasion, Caspari explained to Dr. Montessori how she used colors to help children learn to read music. Montessori responded by saying: “…you were a Montessorian before you met me! Why don’t you stay and take my course.” Caspari wanted very much take the Montessori course at that time, but she had the responsibility of accompanying Mrs. Gasque, the President of the World Fellowship of Prayer, who was leading the study tour on which she and Charles had embarked.
Some months later, WWII broke out and neither the Casparis nor the Montessoris were able to leave India. It was then that Elisabeth Caspari was able to take the course with Dr. Montessori in Adyar Madras.
After completing her course, Dr. Caspari was invited by a Dutch classmate to stay with her in her bungalow on the beautiful hill station of Kodaikanal, in the Palani Hills of India, where the altitude reduces the severity of the heat that blisters the coastal planes in summertime. Soon, the British authorities sent Dr. Montessori and her son Mario to live in Kodaikanal as well. Elisabeth Caspari had the privilege of working with Dr. Maria Montessori for four years during the war.
A devoted advocate of the Montessori system of education forever after, Dr. Caspari came to the U.S. where she opened the Wee Wisdom Montessori School in Lee’s Summit, Missouri in 1947. That was the first Montessori school to be opened in the U.S. after the Second World War. She also opened the first Montessori Teacher Education Center in the U.S. after the War in 1948. Over the years Dr. Caspari offered Montessori Teacher Education courses and established schools in Missouri, Mississippi, Florida and Mexico, where she and Dr. Feland Meadows founded the Pan American Montessori Society in 1973.
In 1976, Dr. Caspari moved to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina to prepare teachers and to support the work of Montessori Schools on the island and in Savannah, Georgia. After the death of her beloved husband, Charles, in 1978, Dr. Caspari moved to California where she continued to prepare teachers and help to found schools in several cities in California and Colorado. She finally moved to Montana, where she and Patrick and Anita Wolberd founded the Caspari Montessori Institute in 1998.
Among her many honors was the “Maria Montessori Lifetime Achievement Award” given to her in 1994 by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE).
Dr. Elisabeth Caspari celebrated her 100th birthday with some eighty friends from around the world in Livingston, Montana in September of 2000. She began to fail about a year later and she passed away in her home in Paradise Valley, Montana on July 11, 2002. She died only a few days after recovering enough to enjoy lunch with Dr. Feland Meadows, who had flown to Montana from Georgia to give final examinations to her students.
Elisabeth Caspari is missed and mourned by hundreds of students and friends throughout the world, who have been inspired by her life and who have adopted her motto: “Love is the Key.”