Kathleen Lynn was born 28 January 1874 in county Mayo, the second child of Robert Lynn, a Church of Ireland clergyman, and his wife Catherine nee Wynne. Lynn's family upbringing was comfortable and her connections aristocratic, she was educated in Manchester, Düsseldorf and Alexander College, Dublin. In 1899 she graduated from Cecilia Street (the Catholic University medical school) and after working in the United Sates, became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1909. Lynn ran a private practice from her home in Rathmines, as well as working on the staff of Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital, at the Rotunda Lying-in Hospital, and from 1910 to 1916 at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital. She was refused a post at the Adelaide Hospital because of her gender.
As well as her medical career, Lynn was an active suffragist, labour activist and nationalist, and was friends with many of the leading figures of the day. The influence of James Connolly, her work in the soup kitchens during the 1913 lockout, and involvement with the Irish Women Workers' Union (she was honorary vice-president in 1917) brought her into close contact with the Dublin poor. This lead to a lifelong campaign to improve the living conditions of Dublin’s poorer citizens.
A member of the Irish Citizen's Army she taught first-aid to Cumann na mBan members and was the chief medical officer during the 1916 rising. In the aftermath of the rising she was imprisoned in Kilmainham with her close friends Madeleine ffrench-Mullen, Helena Molony and Constance Markievicz. After her release she was an active member of Sinn Fein, serving as vice-president of the executive in 1917, as well as being a leading figure in Cumann na dTeachtaire (the League of Women Delegates). Lynn was elected TD for Dublin County on the anti-treaty side in 1923 but did not take her seat, and she failed to retain it in the 1927 election. From this point her role in national politics faded, although she remained an active member of the Rathmines Urban District Council between 1920 and 1930.
Lynn's medical career is defined by her work in Saint Ultan's Hospital, which she established in 1919 with a group of female activists to provide medical and educational facilities for impoverished mothers and infants. In response to Lynn's earlier difficulties in getting a staff position at a hospital because of her gender, Saint Ultan's was managed entirely by female doctors - although males were employed for specialities. As a result the hospital provided much needed opportunities for female doctors, and many of the most prominent Irish female doctors of the period worked there with Lynn. When the hospital opened in 1919 it had only two cots, but it rapidly grew and developed. In 1937 Dr Dorothy Stopford-Price introduced the BCG vaccination for TB, the hospital would later become the headquarters of the National BCG Committee. The success of the hospital owed much to the hard work and commitment of Lynn and its founders, and the donations and fundraising of its supporters.
Lynn lived at 9 Belgrave Road, Rathmines from 1903 to her death in 1955, a home she shared with her friend and confidante Madeline ffrench-Mullen, until Madeline's death in 1944. Lynn died on 13 September 1955, and was buried in the family plot in Deansgrange Cemetery with full military honours.
Archival History ↴
The diaries were presented to the Royal College of Physicians by the descendants of Kathleen Lynn in the 1990s, who felt that they should be kept with the Saint Ultan's Hospital Papers. Following the donation of the diaries to the College an archivist, Margaret Connolly, was employed by the College to create a full transcript of the diaries. During this work she removed loose items held within the diaries and classified them, this material can be found in part two of the collection.
Immediate Source Acquisition ↴
Content & Structure
Scope & Content: Kathleen Lynn (1874-1955) ↴
The collection contains the personal diaries of Dr Kathleen Lynn for the period 1916 to 1955. Two of the volumes also contain family history notes on the Lynn and Wynne families.
Appraisal Destruction ↴
The material is arranged in three sections:
Section 1 – Diaries
Section 2 – Material removed from the diaries
Section 3 – Transcripts
Conditions of Access & Use
Access subject to the conditions laid out in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Heritage Centre Access Guidelines. Given the difficulty in reading the original script of the diaries a transcript is issued to readers. The family history notes and loose extracts which are not fully transcribed can be issued on request.
Conditions Governing Reproduction
Copying of archive material is subject to the conditions laid out in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Heritage Centre Copying Guidelines
Saint Ultan's Hospital Papers (IE RCPI SU)
Kathleen Lynn files, Allen Library, Dublin
Ó hÓgartaigh, Margaret, Kathleen Lynn. Irishwoman, Patriot, Doctor (Irish Academic Press, 2006)
Ó hÓgartaigh, Margaret, 'Kathleen Lynn' in Dictionary of Irish Biography (Cambridge University Press, 2010)
Descriptive Control Area
ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.