Statue of St Teresa of Avila, 1701-1800.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Made of gilt wood, this statue is probably French or Spanish in origin. Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) was a Carmelite nun and mystic. She founded a reformed convent of Saint John of Avila, a religious order with strong traditions in caring for the sick. For centuries, the history of nursing was connected to the history of religious orders. In Europe, women often did not have to take religious vows when they joined nursing orders. In this way, wives, widows and wealthy women could and did join in. They visited the sick and poor in their homes, and also ran hospitals.