Women Who Intruded into History

Medical student Anna Searcy in 1897 C:22/1/1 Savitar – Courtesy of University Archives, University of Missouri

Her hat gives her away.

At first glance, this seems like a typical group photo of a University of Missouri School of Medicine class in 1897. Then you realize there is a woman in the picture. Although the caption identified her as the “class secretary,” she is actually Anna Searcy, an orphan who was sent to the University of Missouri by a charity and became the first woman to enter the school and graduate as a doctor.

How many others were “the only woman in the room”? There were more than you might imagine. One hundred such photos are chronicled in a new book, The Only Woman by Immy Humes. Humes has located pictures showing groups of men—artists, workers, dentists, lawyers—from 1862 to 2020 in 20 countries. These photographic records all have one thing in common — they include a single woman.

It’s a sly commentary on the glacial pace of change.

Taken from “These Trailblazers Were the Only Women in the Room Where It Happened,” excerpted from The Only Woman by Immy Humes (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/these-trailblazers-were-the-only-women-in-the-room-where-it-happened-180980468/).

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