Kathleen Lynn (1874-1955)

Kathleen Lynn

Kathleen Lynn

Wed, Oct 17, 2012, 01:00

Kathleen Lynn’s main claim to fame is her establishment of St Ultan’s Hospital for Infants with her great friend Madeleine ffrench-Mullen in 1919.

Lynn was the Mayo-born daughter of a Church of Ireland clergyman. In 1899, aged 25, she graduated from the Royal University of Ireland, having studied at the Catholic University Medical School. As a doctor she could commit a man to an asylum, thereby depriving him of the vote, but could not vote herself.

Like many of her class and generation she was politicised by the suffrage movement, joining both the Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association and the militant, British-based Women’s Social and Political Union. James Connolly’s brand of socialism and Helena Molony’s trade unionism converted her to republicanism, and she showed her mettle as commander of the City Hall Garrison during the 1916 Rising, and as chief medical officer of the Irish Citizen Army. After imprisonment in Kilmainham Jail, she became vice-president of Sinn Féin, eventually being elected a TD in 1923.

Her greatest work lay in medicine, working on behalf of her patients in her Rathmines practice and at St Ultan’s.

As a hospital that favoured female doctors, St Ultan’s forged a distinctive ethos and was the first hospital to provide the BCG vaccination, which prevented TB. Lynn’s colleague, Dr Dorothy Stopford-Price, pioneered its use. While politically unsuccessful, losing her seat in 1927, Lynn’s professional work enabled her to serve others, and she is remembered with affection. Lynn was buried with full military honours in 1955.