After some exploration of caring as a socio-historical construct, the author examines the changing conception of caring in nursing between Florence Nightingale's day and our own. The place of the older and emergent meanings in the work of some of the recognized nursing theorists is critically examined. A distinction is drawn between a science for caring and a science of caring and some of the problems of conceptualizing and developing a science of caring are explored. It is argued that a science of caring may need to take a hermeneutical form, as, for example, in the work of Patricia Benner. The recognition of nursing skills, knowledge and values as exemplified in nursing caring is linked to the broader struggle for recognition of the ways in which women function intelligently in the world, as thinking, as well as feeling, beings. A link is thus made between nursing's attempts to establish itself as an academic discipline and the academic arm of the feminist movement, particularly where it insists that women's traditional knowledge and concerns be taken as seriously as those of men.