Joyce Lebra spent her childhood in Honolulu and received her B.A.and M.A. in Asian Studies from the University of Minnesota. She received a Ph.D.in .Japanese History from Harvard/Radcliffe. She is the first woman Ph.D. in Japanese History in the U.S. She lived in Japan a total of ten years and three and a half in India doing research on the history of Japan and India. She was Professor of Japanese History and Indian History at the University of Colorado until her retirement.
She received many awards, including an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Minnesota in 1996, two years on a Fulbright fellowship in Japan and one and a half years on Fulbright fellowships in India. Other fellowships include a Japan Foundation fellowship, a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, one from the American Association of University Women, one from Australian National University, and others. She is noted in Who's Who in America, Who's Who of American Women, and Who's Who in American Education. She has lectured widely at the University of Hawai'i, Oxford University, the London School of Economics, Tokyo University, Waseda University, Nagoya University, Hong Kong University, the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, the Netaji Research Bureau in Calcutta, Melbourne and Monash Universities, Macquarie University, Sydney University, Brisbane University, and Australian National University in Canberra. She delivered the Harmon Memorial Lecture at the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1991.
Professor Lebra has authored twelve books, including two historical novels, DURGA'S SWORD and SUGAR AND SMOKE. She led three research teams to Asia to research women's roles in the work force, each of which resulted in a book: WOMEN IN CHANGING JAPAN, CHINESE WOMEN IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, and WOMEN AND WORK IN INDIA. Her other books include: JUNGLE ALLIANCE; JAPAN AND THE INDIAN NATIONAL ARMY,JAPANESE-TRAINED ARMIES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, OKUMA SHIGENOBU; STATESMAN OF MEIJI JAPAN, THE RANI OF JHANSI; A STUDY IN FEMALE HEROISM IN INDIA, and SHAPING HAWAI'I; THE VOICES OF WOMEN. She also edited: JAPAN'S GREATER EAST ASIA CO-PROSPERITY SPHERE. She has written chapters in three books and some fifty articles in scholarly journals.
Professor Lebra has also created many of the collages shown above with old Japanese papers. In her spare time, she takes harp lessons, works out and snorkels in the Pacific.