Women Who Shaped History

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

Look through historical photos of groups and events, and you see a uniform similarity. There are a lot of men, usually of the same race. But every once in a while, a woman is somewhere in the frame. Sometimes they are unidentified. But we know one thing for sure — they were all trailblazers.

Someone who has noticed these anomalies is documentary filmmaker and television producer Immy Humes: “The overwhelming majority of these groups were all male—but it’s uncanny to see how many women snuck in, one at a time, to become the only woman in the room. Trawling through the archives, I felt like I was playing “Where’s Waldo?” or, rather, “Where’s Walda?” I found pleasure in spotting these solitary women, and then, most of all, unraveling the mystery of them: What were they doing there?”

Her curiosity has led to the book The Only Woman which shows 100 photographs, taken in 20 countries from 1862 to 2020, of groups of men from different occupations, that all have one thing in common: they include a single woman.

Taken together, these images are a study in power along a current of change, and they help demonstrate how far women have come in our society.

Taken from “These Trailblazers Were the Only Women in the Room Where It Happened” 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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