Kathleen Lynn was a well-known feminist, socialist, suffragette, labour activist and a doctor by profession. She lived in Dublin and became involved in some of the most pressing political and social issues of the day, such as the Dublin workers during the 1913 Lock Out and went on to join the Irish Citizens Army.
At the request of rebel leader James Connolly she joined the Irish Citizen’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. Lynn was arrested and imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol, alongside her comrades, Countess Markievicz, Helena Molony and Madeleine ffrench-Mullen.
In 1919, Lynn and a group of her fellow female activists set-up Ireland’s first mother and infant hospital, St Ultan’s in Dublin, to improve the living standards for some of the city’s most impoverished and marginalised people. It was the only hospital in Ireland entirely managed by women and Lynn pioneered the use of the Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine, primarily used against tuberculosis, some 10 years before it became widely used in Ireland.
Lynn was elected to Dáil Éireann as a Sinn Féin TD for the Dublin County constituency at the 1923 general election. In accordance with Sinn Féin abstentionist policy of the time, she did not take her seat in Dáil Éireann.
Lynn died in 1955 and was buried with full military honours in recognition of her role in the Rising and the War of Independence. She was so well-known that crowds in Dublin lined the streets to show their respects.
After Lynn’s death, Éamon de Valera set up the Kathleen Lynn Memorial Committee, which lasted for eight straight years and resulted in the opening of a surgical unit at St. Ultan’s Hospital in 1964, which eventually shut in 1975 due to funding difficulties.
Image | Grave of Kathleen Lynn, Deansgrange cemetery, Co Dublin