Helen Fairchild was born in Milton, Pennsylvania, November 21, 1884. She graduated as a nurse from Pennsylvania Hospital in 1913.
On the outbreak of the First World War President Woodrow Wilson declared a policy of strict neutrality. However, on 31st January, 1917, Germany announced a new submarine offensive against countries supplying goods to the Allies. Wilson responded by breaking off diplomatic relations with Germany.
The publication of the Zimmerman Telegram, a document that suggested that Germany was willing to help Mexico regain territory in Texas and Arizona, intensified popular opinion against the Central Powers. On 6th April, America declared war on Germany on 6th April, 1917. A few weeks later Fairchild and 63 other nurses from Pennsylvania Hospital volunteered to serve in Europe.
After arriving on the Western Front Fairchild was sent to Casualty Clearing Station No. 4 at Passchendaele on 22nd July, 1917. Exposed to mustard gas during November 1917, Fairchild began suffering from severe abdominal pains. Fairchild continued to work and it was not until just before Christmas that a Barium meal X-Ray revealed that a large gastric ulcer was obstructing her pylorus. Doctors suggested that this had probably been worse by the poisonous gases used against the Allies.
Fairchild underwent a gastro-enterostomy operation on 13th January 1918. Initially Helen Fairchild did well but on the third day she began to deteriorate and after going into a coma she died on 18th January 1918.