Many outstanding North Carolina nurses made their greatest contributions to people in other countries. One of these was Presbyterian missionary nurse Helen Murr Howard McFayden of Morganton. She was born in Morganton on December 22, 1886 to Hugh and Laura Howard. After graduating from Patton School in 1907 she went to Women’s College (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro). While there she heard a missionary speak and decided to become a nurse and enter the mission field. In 1909 she enrolled in the Mission Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Asheville graduating in 1912. After passing the state board of nursing examination she began her career at the Elizabeth Blake Hospital in Soochow, China under the auspices of the Southern Presbyterian Church’s Executive Committee of Foreign Missions.
Shortly after arriving she fell in love with another missionary, Dr. A.A. McFayden. They married in China in 1916. In addition to raising a family, Helen McFadyen took charge of the male and female nurses in the Men’s Hospital. During the period of Japanese aggression in China in the 1930s before World War II began, mission compounds became safe havens for thousands of Chinese refugees. The McFadyens, protected some 2500 refugees, mostly women and children, while Chinese leaders fed them. When the Japanese took over China during Worls War II, all foreigners, including the McFaydens were interned in what was essentially a prisoner of war camp. Dr. and Mrs. McFadyen returned to the U.S. in July 1942 in the Japanese prisoner-of-war exchange. The returned to Morganton and took jobs at Broughton Hospital. After Dr. McFadyen’s death in 1946, Helen McFadyen returned to Suchow to serve briefly during the post-World War II period. She returned to Morganton permanently in 1949 after over thirty years of service in China. She died in her hometown in August 26, 1969.
Reference: Presbyterian Heritage Center Biographical Index of Missionaries - China (McFADYEN, Archibald Alexander, M.D)