Born in 1916 in Beijing, China to American parents, Blanche Mary Grambs arrived in New York in 1934 with a full scholarship to attend the Art Students League. As she became familiar with Western artists she was drawn to the works of Käthe Kollwitz, José Clemente Orozco and George Grosz. She joined the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration in 1936 and earned enough money to maintain a studio in New York City on Fourteenth Street, an area where many radicals were known to congregate.
Gramb's social conscience and conviction led her to create images of miners, industrial workers and jobless and homeless people. She was employed as an illustrator for Woman’s Day magazine and she illustrated more than 30 children’s books. Gramb was active as a printmaker for only six years, but she produced some of the most indelible expressions of the Great Depression. Her “Self Portrait: made in 1936 was not published in an edition and exists in only a few trial proofs that Gramb personally printed.