Joan O’Bryant was born in Wichita, Kansas in 1923. She attended Wichita University, where she graduated with of Masters of Arts in Creative Writing in 1949. After graduation she worked on plans for a folklore studies class. Soon after she was teaching folklore studies classes at the university, as well as in Pittsburg, Kansas and Gunnison, Colorado, during the summers. Joan O’Bryant was also an accomplished singer and guitar player and released two records of authentic folk music on Folkways Records in the late 1950s. O’Bryant was killed in an automobile accident near Ouray, Colorado in 1964.