Joanna Colcord was born March 12, 1882, in the South Seas on the bark Charlotte A. Littlefield, out of Searsport, Maine, of which her father, Lincoln A. Colcord, was captain. Her childhood is described by her brother:
“Up to the age of eighteen she spent most of her girlhood at sea on board her father’s command, sailing on China voyages; and from this experience she acquired, as if by nature, the essential feeling of ships and the sea. Throughout her youth she lived constantly in an atmosphere of seafaring, in a setting of ocean days, knowing none but the men and women of the sea, seeing nothing but ships and ports about the world, hearing no speech but the nautical vernacular.”
Colcord was a well-educated woman. She earned a Master’s Degree in Chemistry from the University of Maine and attended the New York School of Philanthropy. She worked for the Russell Sage Foundation and other philanthropic organizations in New York City between 1911 and 1944, in addition to documenting sailor’s songs. She authored three books on this subject between 1924 and 1945. In 1950, when Colcord was 68 years old, she got married for the first time to a longtime friend, Frank John Bruno, and moved with him to St. Louis, Missouri, where she died in 1960.