Nurse Helen Fairchild By: Reagan Cisar

Nurse Helen Fairchild helps many soldiers over the coarse of World War One. She documented her works in letters and notes that she sent to her homeland. Helen most likely suffered from PTSD because of the distressing sights she saw during the war. Helen's cause of death was caused by the atrophy of her liver.

As a young girl, Helen saw how proud her father was of her sister who was a nurse. She wanted her father to be proud of her too. Helen also wanted to show how a women could contribute to society. Sexist comments drove Helen to become a nurse and veteran.

Helen was born November 21, 1885 in Pennsylvania. She later graduated as a nurse from Pennsylvania Hospital in 1913. Helen made the brave decision to go overseas along with 63 other nurses, to help soldiers. She nursed during the Battle of Passchendaele.

Helen wrote approximately 100 pages of letters to her family, while in France. The letters are important because they show us the harshness of the war, from a different perspective. Below are a few of her writings.

Base Hospital No. 10, October 1917

Dear Mother,

I hope by next summer I can be home to help eat the peaches Irma tells me you are putting up. One of the girls brought me some great big, dandy ones a day or two ago, but they were so bitter I couldn't eat them.

Just as soon as I get home I am going to get dresses all colors of the rainbow, but never again blue serge or a blue felt hat. Gee, now I know how the kids in orphan asylums must feel when they all have to wear the same kind of clothes.

Another of our operating team left for a place further up the lines this am. They went to relieve Dr. Mitchell, Dr. Packard and Miss McClelland, who have been up there since July 21st, and who are tired out. This team will take their place so they can come home.

Rained some last night and is frightfully windy and cold. I put on some woolen clothing for we do not have any fires in the hut yet, but in spite of two pairs of stockings my feet are cold. Right now I stopped writing and got two hot water bottles and have my feet on one and the other in my lap.

Please write letters often, they mean more to me than a package, for I get a little homesick sometimes.

Heaps and heaps of love and a big kiss to every one,

your very own, Helen.

Casualty Clearing Station No. 4, [Ypres-Passchendaele area]

August 1917

Dear Mother,

...I am with an operating team about 100 miles from our own Base Hospital, closer to the fighting lines. I'll sure have a lot to tell about this experience when I get home. I have been here three weeks and see no signs of going back yet, although when we came we only expected to be here a few days. Of course, I didn't bring much with me. Had two white dresses and two aprons, and two combinations. Now can you imagine trying to keep decent with that much clothing in a place where it rains nearly every day. We all live in tents and wade through mud to and from the operating room where we stand in mud higher than our ankles. It was some task, but dear old Major Harte, who I am up here with, got a car and a man; to go down to our hospital and get us some things. He brought me six clean uniforms and aprons, beside heaps of notes from all the nurses, letters from home and all kinds of fruit and cake.

Helen taught us that it is important to document what is happening, and that a writer can influence a rough time. She is also a great example of how you don't need to fight in a war to be a hero. Helen's sacrifices for her country will never be forgotten.


Created with images by ThruTheseLines - "Sister Davies, unknown date & location, possibly Egypt?" • otisarchives2 - "OHA 386 - appliances for hand exercises" • State Library of South Australia - "Wattle Day, Mount Gambier, 1914" • varmazis - "Varmazis family 1947" • ThruTheseLines - "Sister Hoadley outside her ward at Lemnos" • thompsoe - "Letter from Captain A. G. Butler regarding the DSO, 1918. page 2 of 4" • Kiama.Library - "Stewart004"

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