Joy Bright was born in Wildwood, New Jersey. She graduated from business school in Philadelphia, and then enlisted in the Navy during World War I. At the end of the war, she went to work for the Department of the Navy as a civilian. In 1924, she married Lieutenant Commander Lewis Hancock, Jr., who was killed when his airship crashed the following year. She attended the Foreign Service School and earned a private pilot's license. She worked for the Bureau of Aeronautics and was responsible for its public affairs activities.
Her first book, Airplanes in Action, appeared in 1938. She also edited the newsletter that became the Naval Aviation News. At the start of World War II, she was commissioned as a lieutenant in the newly-formed women's reserve, known as the WAVES. She rose to the rank of commander by the end of the war and in 1946 was made captain and director of the WAVES. When the Navy began offering regular commissions to women, she was one of the first, and became the highest-ranking women in the service. In 1954, she married Vice Admiral Ralph A. Ofstie and accompanied him on his assignment as Commander of the Sixth Fleet. She published her autobiography, Lady in the Navy, in 1972.