Kathleen Florence Lynn 1874-1955
Doctor & Political Activist
Kathleen Florence Lynn 1874-1955
Kathleen Lynn was a well known political activist, patriot and philanthropist in Ireland. She fought for feminism, was involved in the 1916 rising and the 4th Dail. She also had a prominent role in the Irish Citizen Army. Kathleen was unique in her time as she graduated as a Doctor in Belfast in 1899 in the Royal University in Belfast, some of her male colleagues refused to work with her.
Killala, Co Mayo
Kathleen was born in Mullaghfarry, Killala in 1874, the daughter of Catherine and Rev. Robert Lynn, a Church of Ireland Rector.[i] Kathleen grew up in post-famine Ireland, where the West was still suffering poverty and injustice. Although she herself came from a wealthy family she became aware of the trials of disadvantaged and the struggle of the tenant farmers in her area.
She attended Alexandra College (Secondary School) in Dublin as a boarder and went on from here to study Medicine. After that she attended the Catholic University Medical School and on graduation studied for some time in the US. [ii]
Kathleen was a member of the Irish women’s suffrage movement and was a campaigner against injustice to the employees during the 1913 Lock-out in Dublin. She was involved in running a soup kitchen in Dublin with other volunteers, one colleague being Countess Markievicz who shared her experience of being born into a wealthy protestant background.[iii]
James Connolly was the founder of the Irish Citizen Army of which Kathleen was a member, she was rewarded for her work for the organisation when he appointed her its Chief Medical Officer.[iv]
Kathleen was stationed in City Hall during the 1916 Rising. The commander Sean Connolly was shot fatally, leaving her with the responsibility of command over the other rebels alongside her. They eventually surrendered and Kathleen and her garrison were arrested by the British Army. She served time with Countess Markieviz in Kilmainham Gaol, they were in prison when the 1916 leaders were executed.[v] She was also imprisoned in Mountjoy and in the UK.
Following a plea from her parents for her release, Kathleen became a member of the Sinn Fein excecutive and was later imprisoned for some time for this reason. She was released as they required her medical assistance when there was an outbreak of TB in Dublin city. She was elected to the Dail as a TD (republican) in her Dublin constituency in 1923 but did not attend the sessions as she was an anti-treaty supporter; Kathleen was not in favour of signing an oath of allegience to the British Crown. In her diary she noted “Peace terms, but such a Peace!, not what Connolly and Mullin and countless others died for!”[vi]
St. Ultan’s Hospital
Kathleen had a doctors practice in Rathmines and she founded the first paediatric Hospital St. Ultan’s in Charlemount Street in 1919, where she took care of the babies of the lower classes of Dublin. She employed all women in the hospital. She introduced the BCG vaccination to help eradicate the spread of TB among the tenement dwellers in Dublin, as she had become aware of the fatal consequences of this disease. [vii]
Kathleen died in 1955, she is interred in the family plot in Deansgrange Cemetery near Blackrock in Dublin. She had a military funeral and the guard of honour were members of the Irish Citizen Army. Nurses lined the route as her cortege passed to the Cemetery.[i]
Kathleen Lynn is mentioned with Photograph in ‘Western Star‘ December 2021 edition on page 88.
Dr. Kathleen Lynn’s achievements are recounted (with images on pages 11 & 22) in the Dublin City Council’s ‘History on your Doorstep’. Vol. 2: https://www.dublincity.ie/sites/default/files/2021-06/history-on-your-doorstep-volume-2.pdf
[vi] Price, Dominic, (2012) The Flame and the Candle, War in Mayo 1919-1924, Collins Press. Cork.