Kathleen Lynn

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Kathleen Lynn

Kathleen Florence Lynn (28 January 1874 – 14 September 1955) was an Irish Sinn Féin politician, activist and medical doctor. She was born in Killala, Co Mayo, the daughter of a Church of Ireland rector. She was so greatly affected by the poverty and disease of the Great Famine that at the age of 16 years old she decided to be a doctor. She was educated in England and Germany, before enrolling in the Royal University of Ireland, a forerunner to the UCD School of Medicine. Following her graduation in 1899, Lynn went to the United States, where she worked for ten years, before returning to Ireland to become the first female doctor at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital (1910–1916). In 1919, she founded Saint Ultan's Children's Hospital.

Suffragette activity[edit]

Lynn was a member of the executive committee of the Irish Women's Suffragette and Local Government Association (IWSLGA) from 1903, and remained on the executive until 1916.[1] Lynn was a member of the radical British Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) from 1908 and she was also said to be on friendly terms with the suffragist Sylvia Pankhurst.[2] She was part of a mass meeting in 1912, demanding that women's suffrage be included in the home rule bill of that year.[3] She supported the cause of the workers during the 1913 Lockout and worked with Countess Markievicz and others in the soup kitchens in Liberty Hall and became close to Markievicz and James Connolly.[4] As an active suffragette, labour activist and nationalist, Lynn was a member of the Irish Citizen Army and chief medical officer during the 1916 Easter Rising. She described herself as "a Red Cross doctor and a belligerent" when she was arrested.[5] In 1913, at the request of Countess Markievicz, she treated Helena Molony. Molony, who was active in a number of political movements, stayed with Lynn in her Rathmines home following an illness. As a result of the influence of Molony and Markievicz, Lynn became an active participant in the suffragist, labour and nationalist movements. "We used to have long talks and she converted me to the National Movement," Lynn wrote.[6] For her part in the rising, she was imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol, with her comrades Constance Markievicz, Madeleine ffrench-Mullen and Helena Molony. Lynn remained active in the Nationalist movement; she was elected vice-president of the Sinn Féin executive in 1917 [7] and in 1923, Lynn was elected to Dáil Éireann as a Sinn Féin Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin County constituency at the 1923 general election.[8] In accordance with Sinn Féin abstentionist policy of the time, she did not take her seat in Dáil Éireann. She lost her seat in the June 1927 general election.[9] She unsuccessfully contested the August 1927 by-election for Dublin County. Lynn claimed, many years after the 1916 rising, that it was suffrage that converted her to republicanism, saying 'I saw that people got the wrong impression about suffrage and that led me to examine the Irish question'.[10] She was given a gold fibula bone- shaped brooch as a token of gratitude from the Irish Citizen's Army, for her help in the medical preparation for the rising [11]

Medical career[edit]

She decided to become a doctor when she was 16. Lynn was one of the first female medical graduates from University College Dublin. Lynn became politically active and worked in Liberty Hall providing food and care for the poor and destitute families during the turbulent time of the 1913 Dublin Lock-Out.[12] Lynn's medical career was defined by her work at Saint Ultan's Children's Hospital, which she established in Dublin in 1919, with a group of female activists. Lynn's work with Dublin's inner-city poor had convinced her of the need for a hospital to provide medical and educational facilities for impoverished mothers and infants. Earlier in her career, Lynn had experienced discrimination in applying for hospital positions due to her gender, and Saint Ultan's was the only hospital in Ireland entirely managed by women.[13] Saint Ultan's Hospital grew rapidly, and from 1937 became the centre for BCG vaccination in Ireland. The hospital closed in 1983.

Grave of Kathleen Lynn (1874-1955), Deansgrange cemetery, Co. Dublin.

Lynn was the chief medical officer for the Irish Citizen Army. At the request of rebel leader James Connolly she joined the Irish Citzien's Army during the 1916 rising and was appointed as Captain and Chief Medical Officer. She provided medical training to members of the ICA also taught the Cumann na mBan.[14]

Dr. Lynn (along with writer Sean O'Casey) advocated the use of the Irish Language in the Church of Ireland(Anglican) liturgy, indeed many of the events for St. Ultans were advertised in the Irish Language.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Kathleen Lynn was born on 28 January 1874 to a Church of Ireland clergyman, Robert Young Lynn, and his wife, Catherine Wynne,[16][17][18] and was their second eldest child of their four children. Kathleen's older sister was called Anne Elizabeth and was born in 1873 with her younger sister Emily Muriel following behind Kathleen in 1876 to be followed by her younger brother and youngest sibling, John.

Kathleen was born in the townland of Mullafarry, near Killala in County Mayo.[19] In 1882, the family moved to Shrule in County Longford where her father took over as the clergyman of the Ballymahon parish. Later on in her young life, in 1886 Kathleen and her family moved to Cong, a village bordering Mayo and Galway to where her father's parish was being funded by the Lady Ardilaun of Ashford Castle. Kathleen was sent to the Alexandra College which Lady Ardilaun was the patron of in Dublin which she attended till she was sixteen years old. She was distantly related to Countess Markievicz through her aunt's marriage.[20] Growing up in the aftermath of The Great Famine (1845 – 1852), Kathleen was deeply saddened by the deadly diseases and poverty suffered by the people in her local area. Leading her at sixteen, when she left school, to desire to become a doctor.[21]

Lynn's family didn't approve of her role in the rising. In fact, at the time, Lynn's family were so disgusted with her activities that they would not let her return home to Cong, Co.Mayo, for Christmas. She instead had to spend Christmas 1917 with her aunt Florence in Dublin. She did the same the following year, though she longed to spend Christmas with her family in Mayo. This personal split was eventually settled before her father's death in 1923.[22]

Lynn lived in Rathmines from 1903 to her death in 1955, sharing her home with her friend and confidante Madeleine ffrench-Mullen. Lynn died on 14 September 1955, and is buried in the family plot at Deansgrange Cemetery. In acknowledgement of the role she played in the 1916 Rising and the Irish War of Independence, she was buried with full military honours.[23]

Lynn's personal diaries for the period 1916–1955, and the administrative papers of Saint Ultan's Hospital are held by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland archive.


In 1891 Kathleen Lynn went as a boarder to Alexandra College, Dublin, from where she matriculated in 1893 from the Royal University of Ireland. From October 1897 Lynn took classes at the Catholic University of Ireland's school of medicine in Cecilia Street, Dublin, and in the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland. In 1898 she won the Barker anatomical prize awarded by the college. She graduated MB BCh BAO from the Royal University of Ireland in 1899. Lynn conducted her internships at HollesStreet Hospital (1897–9), the Rotunda Hospital (1899), the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital (1899), and at the Richmond Lunatic Asylum. In 1898 Lynn was appointed the first woman resident doctor at Dublin's Adelaide Hospital, but staff opposition to her appointment meant she did not take up the post. She completed postgraduate work in the United States in the early 1900s before working as a duty doctor at hospitals in the city of Dublin as part of her wider general practice based at her home at 9 Belgrave Road, Rathmines, Dublin. Lynn became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in 1909, and was promoted to clinical assistant in the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital in the same year.[24]

Death and Legacy[edit]

Kathleen Lynn died in 1955, she was buried with full military honors in recognition of her role in 1916 Rising and for her credited role in the War of Independence. Although this was against what she wanted, it was the most honorable way to commemorate all her hard and loyal work. From 1916 until her year of death in 1955 she kept a record of her busy life in 4 different volumes of diaries. They are very complex and hard to read/understand the nature of them. So complex that it took librarian, Margaret Connolly, 2 years (as a full-time worker) to transcribe them. They are a very unusual and interesting record of the birth of our nation as well as her political, social and medical life's work. These diaries form the heart of a documentary which was created about her. From 1916 until her death in 1955 she maintained detailed diaries chronicling her medical, political and social life. These diaries are held at the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland archive and provided source material for the 2010 documentary entitled ‘Kathleen Lynn – An Dochtúir Reabhlóideach’ by Loop Line Film and director Sé Merry Doyle. Ultimately Kathleen Lynn dies without seeing her dream of a National Children's Hospital stand completely to her fulfillment. Yet, the legacy she left behind in terms of her political life, St. Ultan's hospital and her dedication to the poor of Ireland will never be forgotten.[25]

Death and legacy[edit]

Dr. Kathleen Lynn died of old age in the year 1955. At her funeral, the minister called her an unpleasant and mean woman. Her close friend, Éamon de Valera stood outside respectively and paid her his last respects. What is an ironic twist to the whole story after her death Éamon de Valera who set up the 'Kathleen Lynn Memorial Committee" which lasted for eight straight years. It resulted in a £7000 surgical unit opened in St. Ultan's Hospital on November 1964 by the Minister for Health at the time,[Mr. Sean MacEntee. The President of the time, Éamon de Valera, was present in the audience. Unfortunately St. Ultan's shut its doors for the last time in 1975. It had many a difficulty in finding the funds made it impossible to continue. It is now a private clinic. Today here hospital is gone but she helped change so many people's lives in the world that she is kept in people's memories.


  1. ^ Ó hÓgartaigh, Margaret (2006). Kathleen Lynn: Irishwoman, Patriot, Doctor. Dublin: Irish Academic Press. 
  2. ^ Ó hOgartaigh, Margaret (2006). Kathleen Lynn: Irishwoman, Patriot, Doctor. Dublin, Ireland: Irish Academic Press. 
  3. ^ Ó hOgartaigh, Margaret (2006). Kathleen Lynn: Irishwoman, Patriot, Doctor. Dublin, Ireland: Irish Academic Press. 
  4. ^ Stokes, Tom. "Kathleen Lynn". The Irish Republic. Retrieved 23 November 2016. 
  5. ^ Eight Women of the Easter Rising The New York Times, March 16, 2016
  6. ^ Wheelock. "1916: Diary of rebel doctor Kathleen Lynn". The Irish Times. 
  7. ^ Wheelock. "1916: Diary of rebel doctor Kathleen Lynn". The Irish Times. 
  8. ^ "Kathleen Florence Lynn". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 26 April 2009. 
  9. ^ "Kathleen Lynn". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 26 April 2009. 
  10. ^ Ó hOgartaigh, Margaret (2006). kathleen Lynn: Irishwoman, Patriot, Doctor. Dublin, Ireland: Irish Academic Press. 
  11. ^ Ó hOgartaigh, Margaret (2006). Kathleen Lynn: Irishwoman, Patriot, Doctor. Dublin, Ireland: Irish Academic Press. 
  12. ^ "Lynn, Kathleen (1874-1955), A revolutionary doctor". www.ucd.ie. UCD. Retrieved 13 October 2016. 
  13. ^ Ó hÓgartaigh, Margaret, Kathleen Lynn. Irishwoman, Patriot, Doctor. (Irish Academic Press, 2006). pp. 68–69.
  14. ^ "Lynn, Kathleen (1874-1955), 1916: Diary of rebel doctor". www.irishtimes.com. Harriet Wheelock. Retrieved 13 October 2016. 
  15. ^ St Ultans a Womens Hospital for Infants www.historyireland.com
  16. ^ "General Registrar's Office". IrishGenealogy.ie. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  17. ^ Smyth, Hazel P. (1977-01-01). "Kathleen Lynn, M.D., F.R.C.S.I. (1874-1955)". Dublin Historical Record. 30 (2): 51–57. 
  18. ^ "Mullafarry Rectory or Ballysakeery Glebe". davidhicksbook.blogspot.gr. David Hicks. 26 March 2016. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  19. ^ Ó, M., & Hogartaigh, M. O. (2006). Kathleen Lynn: Irishwoman, patriot, doctor. Dublin: Irish Academic Press. pp. 6
  20. ^ DOCUMENTARY ON KATHLEEN LYNN. (2008, Jun 21). Irish Times Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/309035631
  21. ^ Kathleen Lynn: Insider on the outside, Art Exhibition, essay. (2016). Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.kathleenlynn.net/essays/
  22. ^ Ó' hOgartaigh, Margaret (2006). Kathleen Lynn: Irishwoman, Patriot, Doctor. Dublin: Irish Academic Press. 
  23. ^ Ó hÓgartaigh, Margaret, Kathleen Lynn. Irishwoman, Patriot, Doctor. (Irish Academic Press, 2006).
  24. ^ "Lynn, Kathleen (1874–1955), physician and political activist". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Maria Luddy. Retrieved 22 October 2016. 
  25. ^ "Kathleen Lynn - The Rebel Doctor". loopline.com. Retrieved 11 November 2016. 


  • Ó hÓgartaigh, Margaret (2010). Kathleen Lynn. Dictionary of Irish Biography. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Ó hÓgartaigh, Margaret (2006). Kathleen Lynn: Irishwoman, Patriot, Doctor. Irish Academic Press. 
Party political offices
Preceded by
Arthur Griffith and Michael O'Flanagan
Vice-President of Sinn Féin
with P. J. Ruttledge (1923–1926)

Succeeded by
Mary MacSwiney and John Madden