Dons Dublin: Kathleen Lynn

by Don Cameron
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Kathleen Lynn was born 28 January 1874 in Mullafarry, Co. Mayo, the second of three daughters and one son of Robert Lynn, Church of Ireland clergyman, and Catherine Lynn of Drumcliffe, Co. Sligo. 

Although she had a privileged childhood she was exposed to poverty and disputes over land in her native county, which informed her political outlook in later years.

She attended Alexandra College, graduated in 1899 before going to America for postgraduate work. Ten years later she became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. 

She worked in both Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital and the Rotunda Lying-In Hospital before taking up the post of clinical assistant at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, where she was, notably, the first female resident doctor. 

She worked in the soup kitchens during the 1913 lock-out and this brought a sharper focus to her politics. Later, she joined the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) and instructed members of Cumann na mBan in first-aid techniques.

During the Easter Rising she was the chief medical officer of the ICA and helped combatants from her post at City Hall. After the fighting she spent time in Kilmainham prison before being sent to England. On returning to Ireland she re-established her medical practice at 9 Belgrave Road, Rathmines.

However, Kathleen Lynn is best remembered as being one of the founders, along with Madeleine ffrench-Mullen, of St. Ultan’s Hospital for Infants on Charlemont Street in 1919. This was very much in response to the need for access to appropriate care for the poorer women in society. 

In 1923 General Election she was a winning Sinn Fein candidate for Dublin county, but did not take her seat. She lost the seat in the 1927, but was a member of Rathmines district council between 1920 and 1930. 

She died on 14 September 1955 at St Mary’s Nursing Home and, in recognition of her contribution during the Easter Rising, she was given a full military funeral and is buried in Deansgrange Cemetery.

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