Luisa de Carvajal has a claim to being the first female missionary. Born into a noble family in 16th-century Spain, she spent her childhood being flagellated and wearing a hair-shirt.
She refused proposals of marriage, gave away all her money and travelled to England in 1605, where she became the centre of an underground Catholic movement smuggling out the bodily relics of executed priests in the dangerous times following the Gunpowder Plot. A writer and aspirant martyr, she was twice imprisoned, and her funeral was attended by Catholics from all over Europe. Glyn Redworth's biography reads like a novel, evoking the "visceral nature of early modern religion".Reuse content