- Dust On My Heart: Petticoat Vagabond in Mexico (1946)
- Petticoat Vagabond: In Ainu Land and Up and Down Eastern Asia (1942)
- Petticoat Vagabond: Up and Down The World in Asia (1942)
- White Reindeer (1940)
- Petticoat Vagabond among the Nomads (1939)
Nell Neill James was born in Grenada, Mississippi, in 1895. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Mississippi Industrial Institute and College in 1918 and traveled extensively. She was on the staff at the American embassies in Tokyo (1924-1927) and Berlin (1928-1929). James began writing the Petticoat Vagabond series in 1937. On returning from Japan just before December 7, 1941, James decided to travel all to “corners of Mexico.” Unfortunately, James fell and broke her leg while climbing Popocateptl. Then, while she was still on crutches, she visited Paracutin and the volcano erupted. The shelter she was staying in collapsed on top of her from the weight of accumulated ash. She was badly injured, taken from the mountain in Michoacan to Ajijic, Jalisco, and spent a year of rest and recuperation.
She collected her notes and journals into a very popular travel series called Petticoat Vagabond. Dust On My Heart, Petticoat Vagabond: In Ainu Land, Petticoat Vagabonds: Up and Down The World in Asia and White Reindeer were especially popular.
As a result of these travel books, other writers and celebrities, including Ernest Hemingway and Amelia Earhart, visited her at what became her permanent home in Mexico. James established an art center in the village of Ajijic, Mexico, which is renowned internationally.
Nell Neill James was a philanthropist and worked to improve the lives of the people in the villages she lived. She also promoted the arts. James and others founded the Lake Chapala Society in 1955, a thriving cultural, social and benevolent society today. She left her home to the Society after her death. She died in 1994.
- The Lake Chapala Society page for Neill James: A Woman of a Century by Tod Jonson
- Goodreads has a biography of James
- Neill James in Modern Mexico Magazine
- 1942 issue of the Chicago Tribune discussing James’ fall into the Popocatepetl volcano where she broke her leg
- The Legacy of a Heroine
- The Neill James Legacy by Mildred James (October 2004 Guadalajara-Lakeside Volume 21, Number 2)