Kathleen Florence Lynn was born in 1874 in Co. Mayo. She was a political activist, supporter of the women’s suffrage movement, and an accomplished doctor.
Dr. Lynn was one of the first women to graduate in medicine from the Royal University of Ireland and she was the first female resident at the Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin. Sill, these qualifications didn’t protect her from discrimination because “she was not a man.”
Dr. Lynn joined the ranks of the Citizen Army and was Chief Medical Officer during the 1916 Easter Rising. When her Commanding Officer was shot, she, as next highest-ranking officer, was promoted to Captain. She was imprisoned for her role in the uprising.
While working with Dublin’s inner city poor, she realized the need to provide adequate medical and educational care for mothers and infants. At that time 164 out of every 1000 babies born in Dublin died from preventable diseases. In 1919 Dr. Lynn helped establish Saint Ultan’s Hospital ‘for the medical treatment of infants under one year of age.’ She thumbed her nose at the hospitals who had turned her down in the past by insisting that St. Ultan’s be staffed and managed entirely by women. During her time there she pioneered use of the BCG vaccine against tuberculosis more than a decade before it went into general use in Ireland.
Dr. Lynn devoted her “spare” time to children, too. She served as Vice President of Save the German Children, an organization that found homes in Ireland for evacuated children during the Second World War. It’s impossible to say how many children’s lives she helped to save during her career. And of course, she had no children of her own.
Dr. Lynn was definitely her own woman. It is reported that she turned down the use of the hospital’s chauffeur and enormous car, preferring to make her own way through the world by bicycle.
In acknowledgement of the role she played in the 1916 Rising and the Irish War of Independence, Dr. Kathleen Lynn was buried in 1955 with full military honors