group photo of 10 astronauts in space station, some upside down, most wearing matching red white and blue polo shirts
Bonnie Dunbar with American and Russian astronauts, Mir Space Station, 1998 (Science Photo Library / NASA)

Is She a Fluke? A Token? A Trailblazer?

When women enter the frame

For her new book, The Only Woman, the documentary filmmaker Immy Humes collected 100 group portraits—of artists, astronauts, civil-rights leaders—that share a common trait: Each photo has only one woman. Can you spot her? Depending on your point of view, she might seem like an emblem of progress, evidence of old-fashioned gender inequality, or both. Is she a fluke? A token? A trailblazer?

black and white photo of group of men wearing trench coats and hats with one woman holding handbag
Lisette Dammas
Jury for the espionage trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, New York City, 1951
(Bettmann / Getty)

group photo of 19 artists including Ellsworth Kelly, Andy Warhol, Richard Serra, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, Edward Ruscha, and Robert Rauschenberg
Mia Westerlund Roosen
Artists celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Leo Castelli Gallery, New York City, 1982
(Courtesy of Castelli Gallery, New York, and Center for Creative Photography / © 1991 Hans Namuth Estate)

black-and-white group photo of 8 people including Robert F. Kennedy
Gloria Richardson
Civil-rights leaders meet with Robert F. Kennedy, Washington, D.C., 1963
(Afro American Newspapers / Gado / Getty)

group photo of 23 people in suits, seated around large wooden conference table in wood-paneled conference room, with the woman in a turquoise suit
Katharine Graham
Board of directors of the Associated Press, New York City, 1975
(Shutterstock / AP)

This article appears in the September 2022 print edition with the headline “A Man’s World.”