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Josefina Niggli Collection

Identifier: MSS 85-13

Scope and Contents

Josefina Niggli (1910-1983) worked in several literary fields--poetry, drama, fiction--but she also is remembered for her twenty-year service as director of drama, director of the Little Theatre, and journalism instructor of Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, NC).

Josefina Marie Niggli was born July 13, 1910, in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. She was the daughter of Frederick Ferdinand Niggli, the manager of a cement plant in the village of Hidalgo, and Goldi (Morgan) Niggli, a violinist. When Niggli was three years old, her family fled Mexico after the assassination of President Francisco Madero, and later settled in San Antonio TX. Niggli graduated from Main Avenue High School in 1925 and the College of the Incarnate Word in 1931. She studied under Samuel Selden and Frederick H. Koch at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received her M.A. in drama in 1934, and wrote a three-act play, “Singing Valley,” Singing Valley, as her thesis. She also studied at the Columbia University School of Journalism, New York City University, The Abbey Theatre (Dublin) and at the Old Vic Theatre (London). Writing careers in California with Twentieth Century Fox and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer followed.

In the 1940s, Niggli left California to pursue a teaching career, beginning in Chapel Hill, NC. In 1956, she joined the Western Carolina University faculty and remained until her retirement in 1975. She died on December 17, 1983.

Niggli's first experience in writing was in verse, "Tourist in a Mexican Town," published in the Denver Echo. Later some of her poems were collected into a book, Mexican Silhouettes (1931). She gained a reputation with her one-act plays, several of which were brought out separately - The Red Velvet Goat (1938) and Sunday Costs Five Pesos (1939). – Niggli’s work appeared in such anthologies as The Carolina Playbook (March 1936), The Best One-Act Plays of 1938 and Contemporary One-Act Plays (1938) . Niggli edited the anthology, Mexican Folk Plays, in 1938.

Other works include Mexican Village (1945), a collection of ten novellas later adapted into a movie titled Sombrero: Pointers on Playwriting (1945) which was followed by Pointers on Radio Writing (1946). In 1947 Niggli's first novel, Step Down, Elder Brother, was selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club. Niggli won the Mayflower Cup, an award given annually for the best published work by a North Carolinian, in 1946, for Mexican Village.

Major Works of Josefina Niggli:

Mexican Silhouettes (1931)

Tooth or Shave (1936)

"Singing Valley"Singing Valley (thesis, 1937)

Soldadera (1937)

This Bull Ate Nutmeg (1937)

Mexican Folk Plays (1938)

Sunday Costs Five Pesos (1939)

This Is Villa! (1939)

Miracle at Blaise (1944)

Mexican Village (1945)

Pointers on Playwriting (1945)

Pointers on Radio Writing (1946)

Step Down, Elder Brother (1949)

Farewell, Mama Carlotta (1950)

Miracle for Mexico (1964)

Lightning from the East (1965)

New Pointers on Playwriting (1967)

The Niggili Collection is divided into four broad categories:

Box one contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, and her teaching notes.

Box two contains story ideas and notes, short stories, drafts and revisions and plays.

Manuscripts comprise boxes 3 through 5.

Box 6 contains her note card files and story ideas. Niggli's personal and teaching journals are included in boxes 7-9.

There have been four additions to the collection. The first addition to the Josefina Niggli collection contains a ring-binder / notebook containing correspondence, typescripts, and handwritten drafts and/or manuscripts by Niggli. The drafts sketch out the cast of characters of a novel, provide a chronology of events, and proceed to a 130 page typescript complete with revisions. Also in the collection are five photographs of Ms. Niggli, featuring her as a young teenager and on into later life.

The second addition to the Josefina Niggli Collection consists of 7 airmail letters from Josefina Niggli to her mother during a visit to England in April 1964. It also includes her passport, International Certificates of Vaccination, a book “Our Marriage Vow – The Service and Minister’s Certificate” (New York: Thomas Whittaker, c1877) and a pair of glasses.

The third addition includes correspondence, printed materials, press clippings, two scrapbooks and a plaque.

This fourth addition to the Josefina Niggli Collection includes correspondence, newspaper clippings, newsletters, programs, photographs, a poem, and a plaque from Western Carolina University.


  • 1877 - 1984

Conditions Governing Use

No publication fee is made for use of Western Carolina University Library special collections material in scholarly publications. The Library retains sole right to judge what constitutes a non-scholarly or commercial publication. Permission to publish commercially, in circumstances where the Library is qualified to grant it, requires proper authorization. Please contact Special Collections at for more information.


8.5 Linear Feet

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Repository Details

Part of the Hunter Library - Special Collections Repository

Cullowhee United States