Red Cross Worker in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

Joanna Colcord Collection
Gift of Nina Colcord

Outside of Searsport, Maine, and her association with sailors and sea shanties (she published Roll and Go: Songs of American Sailormen in 1938), Joanna Colcord was best known as an influential and nationally recognized social worker, administrator, and author of social policy, especially regarding public assistance during the Great Depression. In the summer of 1920, Colcord took a leave of absence from the New York Charity Organization Society, where she supervised twelve district offices, to head an expedition of social workers, librarians, and nurses from the American Red Cross to the recently acquired U.S. Virgin Islands (purchased from Denmark in 1916). Perhaps influenced by prominent social photographer Lewis Hine and his 1909 call for social workers to utilize the camera in the work, Colcord once again picked up her camera while she was in St. Thomas, documenting the physical presence of the Red Cross and their community efforts in the Virgin Islands, including signs and volunteers, as seen in this photograph.