During her lifetime, Elizabeth Catlett (1915–2012) achieved international fame for her powerful explorations of race, class, and her own African American female identity. As a young woman, she studied art in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Art with a social message became particularly relevant, with the U.S. government supporting public art through the Works Progress Administration and other programs.
After World War II, many American artists shifted to abstraction but Catlett ignored this trend and traveled to Mexico to pursue her goal of making art that is meaningful to working people everywhere. When the Civil Rights and Black Power movements erupted in the United States during the 1960s, Catlett gained recognition for her socially conscious work. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Feminist movement in art and society brought her even more widespread attention and respect.