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Monumental social and political changes took place nationally and internationally over the course of the Photo League’s history.

At the time of the League’s founding, the United States was dealing with the economic, political, and social upheaval of the Great Depression. In response to the Depression, the government of President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted massive relief programs known as the New Deal. Many League members were inspired by this social climate to make inequity and discrimination a subject of their work.

The early 1940s witnessed the country’s rapid transition from New Deal recovery to war mobilization. The League rallied around war-related projects, and half the membership enlisted. It was at this point that many women became members.

After World War II, the country experienced post-war prosperity but also the advent of the Cold War. In 1947, the Photo League, aligned throughout its history with left-leaning sentiments, was blacklisted by the U.S. Attorney General for allegedly being a communist front organization. The fear and paranoia about being tied to an organization on the blacklist made it difficult for the League to retain and attract members and ultimately led to its dissolution in 1951.