Kathleen Lynn of Mayo: ‘a brave and wise soul’

This is a line from a poem dedicated to her which was published in the Worker’s Republic 22 April 1916.
Dr Kathleen Florence Lynn passed away after eighty-one years of life on 14 September 1955 in Saint Mary’s Anglican Home in Pembroke Park, Ballsbridge, and is buried in the Lynn family plot, in Deansgrange Cemetery, an unmarried woman laid to rest alongside her parents and siblings.
This seemingly unremarkable set of circumstances is in fact extraordinary, given the life that Dr. Lynn had lived over the previous eight decades. Kathleen had set her own course in life, but, unlike others who were female pioneers and innovators during this era, the choices she made necessitated the breaking of connections with family and class.
Her role in the 1916 Rising was not forgotten by her contemporaries. Members of the Old IRA, the 7th Eastern Battalion, fired three volleys over her grave. Those recorded as attending Dr Lynn’s funeral reflect the life she lived, and in which she had achieved and given so much. The front page of the Irish Press shows an image of her funeral cortege passing nurses from Saint Ultan’s, the hospital she founded, lining the road in Rathmines in their crisp white uniforms. The Irish Citizen Army provided a guard of honour at the graveside and an Army bugler sounded the Last Post.
Members of Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise were also in attendance.  Kathleen Lynn was a committed member of the Church of Ireland, but was vocal in what she saw as the need to reform the Church of Ireland, working with Douglas Hyde to de-Anglicise the church through their involvement with Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise.

Kathleen was born in Mullaghfarry, north Mayo, on 28 January 1874 to Katherine Lynn nee Wynne who was descended from
the Earl of Hazelwood. She was distantly related to Countess de Markievicz through an aunt’s marriage to the Gore-Booths of Sligo. Maeb Ruane, one of Kathleen’s early biographers, discovered that circuitously Kathleen was descended from Mary, Queen of Scots. 
Her more immediate antecedents included her grandfather, Sligo doctor Robert Kerison Lynn. When he died in May 1873 he left his effects, valued at just under £800 to his son, Canon Lynn, in Mullaghfarry. It was there in midwinter that his second daughter, named Kathleen Florence, was born; her second name had been made popular by nurse Florence Nightingale, famed for her work during the Crimean War.
There were two other daughters, Anne Elizabeth known as Nan, born in January 1873 and Emily Muriel, born 1876, followed by the youngest and only boy, John.  In 1882, when Kathleen was nine, the family moved from North Mayo to Shrule in Longford where her father took over the Ballymahon Parish. Four years later the family was back living in Mayo, this time in Cong, where her father’s parish was under the patronage of the Ardilauns of Ashford Castle. Lady Ardilaun was a Patron at Alexandria School in Dublin and Kathleen was sent there when she was sixteen.
She was described in the school magazine as ‘one of the most gifted student doctors’ and congratulated when she gained first place in anatomy: ‘a distinction not hitherto achieved by a woman’. Legislation introduced during Kathleen’s lifetime allowed women to qualify in the medical profession ‘without distinction of sex’.  During her training she interned in the Maternity Hospital at Holles Street and at the Rotunda Lying-in Hospital she received her licentiate in midwifery and in 1902 she joined the staff of The Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital. In 1904 she moved into 9 Belgrave Road, Rathmines, where she established her practice as a GP and where she continued to live for the rest of her life. In 1909 she was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, described as a ‘rare distinction’. An advocate of the rights of women, she became a member of the Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association in 1903.
At the time of the Lock Out in 1913 Kathleen became active in the relief efforts for the workers and their families who had been locked out by their employers. This charitable activity or political philanthropy according to biographer Margaret O’ hOgartaigh was to push Lynn further along the road to Revolution. When the Irish Citizen Army was established she was appointed Chief Medical Officer with the rank of Captain. James Connolly was said ‘to be constantly amazed at how completely she was accepted by members of the ICA. It was to Dr Lynn, rather than the Countess, that he presented a gold brooch on Holy Thursday 1916 in recognition of her work for the ICA. During Easter Week she was in City Hall. In the 1950s Connolly’s daughter Nora wrote:  The members of the Citizen Army, who were perhaps more famed for the toughness of their qualities than for the delicacy of their perceptions, were swift to recognize this calm serenity of Dr Lynn, and won comfort and assurance from it many times … Those who were there with her remember and often tell of her calmness and serenity while on the roof of the City Hall with bullets smacking all round her.
 St Ultan’s Hospital, Teach Ultain, began with a £100 and two cots in 1919 and grew from an old domestic training college in Charlemont Street into a pioneering hospital for infants under the careful guidance of Kathleen Lynn and her partner Madeleine ffrench Mullen. The hospital was managed exclusively by women and staffed by doctors recognized for their excellence such as Dorothy Stopford-Price, Alice Barry and Ella Webb. One of the aims of the hospital was to be ‘a university for mothers’ and this extended to running a holiday home for families in Baldoyle. St Ultan’s pioneered the modern form of the BCG as early as 1937, when Dr Dorothy Stopford Price, who had become expert in childhood tuberculosis, introduced it from Sweden. The BCG was in use in St Ultan’s ten years before it was available

throughout the country. Dr. John Cowell, the first man employed at the hospital, said he owed his appointment to his expertise in the treatment of TB.
Dr Lynn, alongside her partner Madeleine ffrench Mullen, worked tirelessly to ‘spread knowledge’ with the St Ultan’s Hospital Utility Society. In 1934 Dr Maria Montessori, the first female medical doctor to qualify in Italy, visited the hospital and the two women exchanged ideas; by the end of the year there was a Montessori ward at St Ultan’s.  This learning method was criticized by some of Kathleen’s contemporaries; one UCD professor calling it ‘braggart blasphemy’.

Politician and Advocate:
Following the Rising Kathleen was not permitted by the family to visit them in Mayo. However, they were instrumental in getting her ‘open arrest’ assisting a doctor in Bath rather than a prison term for her part in the Rising. In 1917 Kathleen was elected to the Sinn Féin Executive, which was an umbrella organisation of nationalists following the Rising. Active in the War of Independence, she was arrested in 1918 but was released to assist with the flu epidemic. She was elected to the Dáil, but having opposed the Treaty of 1921, she did not take her seat. By 1926 she had distanced herself from politics and concentrated on her hospital. She remained a member of Rathmines Urban District Council until 1930.
Always a humanitarian, she was Vice-President of Save the German Children, an organisation which located homes for German children in Ireland during the Second World War. She had spent time in Germany in her youth and always kept her contacts there. The German Government was represented at her funeral.
Kathleen continued to work as a doctor until she was over eighty. Today her hospital is gone but during her lifetime she saved and changed the lives of countless mothers and infants. She was a pioneer, an innovator and a leader. She followed her own beliefs in everything, including her relationship with Madeleine, the details of which are preserved in her diaries from 1916, now in the Royal College of Physicians.
Today people enjoying the benefits of fresh air and exercise can stay in her cottage in Glenmalure in County Wicklow which she willed to An Óige. If indeed the proposed new children's hospital were to be named after her it would be a fitting tribute given her enormous contribution to the foundation of the State, and the care she gave to so many of the mothers and children who were most in need.
I am proud to be associated with the Mayo Arts Collaborative. We all share the belief in the importance of this Mayo woman and trust this work will encourage people to read her story and be inspired by her courage always to be her own person, true to her ‘brave and wise soul’.
Sinead McCoole 2016

Kathleen Lynn; Insider on the outside

We think of ‘insiders’ as those who belong because of their family connections, their education, their wealth, and generally their confidence and social ease. Born into a comfortable Church of Ireland family with close connections to some of the best established families in Ireland, there was no reason why Kathleen Lynn might not have enjoyed this empowering position all her life. That, however, is not how it turned out for her. Lynn studied medicine in the early years of the 20th century, only to find that paid hospital work was denied her, simply because she was a woman. Outrage at this drove her to systematically challenge the status quo over the next decades. She joined James Connolly’s Citizen Army, fought in the 1916 Rising, formed a lasting relationship with another woman, Madeleine ffrench Mullen, with whom she set up St Ultan’s Hospital for Infant Children in Charlemont Street, Dublin, and refused the Dáil seat she was elected to because she opposed the Treaty in 1922. Those actions were enough to place her outside her circle of family and friends, but she became even more of an outsider when her old colleague Éamon DeValera, as Taoiseach in the 1930s, opposed her attempts to integrate St Ultan’s with Harcourt St. hospital to form a National Children’s Hospital, because he feared that as a confirmed Protestant, her involvement would modify the Catholicism of the new institution. Lynn’s choices throughout her life placed her firmly outside the circles of power.

So when Áras Inis Gluaire-Erris, Ballina Arts Centre, Ballinglen Art Foundation, Linenhall Arts Centre and Custom House Studios and Gallery, Westport decided to collaborate to hold an art exhibition, spread over all five venues, to honour this Co. Mayo woman, I was very excited and flattered to be invited to curate it. The resulting exhibition brings together newly commissioned work by 12 artists and one pre-existing work. Given his love of the Mayo landscape, and Kathleen Lynn’s lifelong concerns about nutrition for the poor, Patrick Graham’s painting, Famine, (1998), seemed an appropriate starting point for the show. Near famine conditions recurred in areas of Ireland until well into the 20th century and there is a widely-publicised photograph of Lynn holding emaciated babies that could just as easily have dated from the 1840s. If Graham’s Famine captures the poverty, still real during Lynn’s childhood in Mayo, the other artists in this exhibition have all responded to Lynn’s concerns about the environment, gender, the right to freedom and love.

In 2016 as we celebrate the courage and selflessness of figures like Lynn and her fellow revolutionaries, Seamus Nolan invites us to think about what it is like to be a woman participant in an armed struggle for liberation now. How did her vision differ from that of the young Kurdish teenager, Silhan Özçelik? The historical obscuring of women in Lynn’s time is actively challenged in Matriline, Mary Kelly’s project. Kelly wants to make women from Lynn’s time to ours so visible that they will not be easily erased in the future. Conor O’Grady’s installation, Some Irish Mothers, also draws attention to historic erasure, aligning images of women’s work to that of men to question their respective values, opportunities and processes. Janet Mullarney, inspired by the notorious incident when a Suffragette threw herself to her death under the King’s horse at Ascot, got to thinking about macho campaigns such as the crusades, and wittily substituted a clothes horse draped with both a trousers and a skirt to conjure up further thoughts about male and female identity. Given Lynn’s lifelong political activism, Michelle Browne focused her attention on contemporary women who followed in Lynn’s footsteps and moved from the family home to the political arena, competing at the hustings, participating in the political process to the highest level. Her recorded interviews raise questions about continuity as well as change. Sadly, so do Deirdre O’Mahony’s twitter conversations about medical provision in rural Ireland. What would Kathleen Say? O’Mahony asks in poster after poster detailing first hand experiences of service failures and the closure of clinics and dispensaries. Lynn’s medical career is also referenced very subtly in Will O’Kane’s use of plaster casts of images that result from the overlap between digital technologies and scanning. While the images take us back to the Church in Mullaghfarry, where Lynn’s father served as rector, their fabrication and their placement in the gallery raise thoughts about communicative processes in contemporary life.Geraldine O’Reilly, Joanna Hopkins and Margo McNulty tease out aspects of Kathleen Lynn’s personal life as well as her public position in their work.

McNulty studied artefacts including Lynn’s diaries, fascinating in structure as well as content, that connect to Lynn’s faith in republicanism, in Germany and other matters. Geraldine O’Reilly’s homage to Lynn throws up a wonderful drawing of her now derelict birthplace as well as lively drawings of aspects of Lynn’s character as seen in photographs of her in Saint Ultan’s. Joanna Hopkins opens up the previously unexamined relationship between Lynn and Madeleine ffrench Mullen through tender, delicate watercolour drawings of their letters and an installation to mark their special celebrations.

Gary Coyle and Dermot Seymour round off this contemporary response to Kathleen Lynn’s life and work with two landscape works that together make telling and poignant comments on current attitudes to nature and to urban poverty. It was a now defunct chemical plant, still polluting local waterways and by extension the fields immediately surrounding Lynn’s birthplace that caught Dermot Seymour’s sardonic eye. Asahi Epitaph could have been painted from Lynn’s old nursery window. Its concern about the ecology of the Irish countryside makes this an appropriate epitaph for a founder member of An Óige.

Gary Coyle’s
drawings explore the layers of memories that attach to places, often otherwise unremarkable. In this instance his attention was caught by the emptiness of the site, on Dublin’s Charlemont Street, which was occupied until 2013 by ffrench Mullen House, a social housing unit that Lynn and ffrench Mullen had campaigned for in their fight to improve the lot of inner city poor in the first half of the last century. Its vast emptiness now, while homelessness is once again a major issue shows how contemporary Lynn and her friends continue to be. That is how the artists in this exhibition saw them.

Catherine Marshall


Kathleen Lynn: Insider on the Outside

(Opening address - Dr. Ann O’Mahony)

History as a discipline is highly selective in its narratives and positionings. Until challenged by mass movements, such as second wave feminism, in the last third of the 20th century, the canon of history, by which I mean the version enshrined in universities, academies and textbooks, etc., contained deeply embedded bias, seemingly unconscious and unacknowledging of seminal issues such as social class, political privilege, socio-economic status, gender, race and geographical determinants. It validated and recorded the stories of male white European actors for an elite audience of the privileged classes of Church and State. Women in such a realm of forgetfulness were in Jacques Derrida’s sense ‘under erasure’. In 1966, women were not admitted into official narratives celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. To-day, we have gathered to amend the oversight of an honoured daughter of Mayo, Kathleen Florence Lynn.
From the knowledge base of the 21
st century, we have come to recognise all our historical narratives as ‘stories’ we tell ourselves at particular points to give the past meaning, sometimes for the best of reasons and at other times to preserve positions of power and privilege. Histories, in the plural, now have to be seen from a position of multiple understanding, what Griselda Pollock (British art historian) terms ‘situated knowledge’ where political meaning and social context are relevant and reading the multiple layers of the past allows for a web of meanings and viewpoints to flourish. A whole generation of scholars over a quarter of a century have systematically reclaimed a place for women in the history books. Women have painstakingly been sculpted back into the Canon of not only art history, but also many other branches of cultural production such as literature, music as well as science, medicine, mathematics, etc. for ever, we hope, fracturing the institutionalised unconsciousness of those who sought to preserve our histories as a privileged and exclusive space.
In the context of the centenary celebration of 1916 to-day in the Linenhall, we can, perhaps, usefully reframe Linda Nochlin’s (American Art Historian) 1970’s question of ‘Why no great women artists?’, which set off a veritable deluge of research and rediscovery, thereby reclaiming generations of women artists, written out of art history. Our question reframed asks: “Why no great women revolutionaries?” This question is surely illuminated by the life of a revolutionary daughter of Mayo, in whose honour we begin our five-centre Mayo Arts Collaborative Odyssey curated by Catherine Marshall and mediated through the work of hearts, minds and eyes of 13 of Ireland’s foremost visual artists.

Dr. Kathleen Florence Lynn, was born on January 28
th 1874 in Mullaghfarry, Killala, the daughter of a Canon of the Church of Ireland and Katharine Wynne, whose father, the Rev. Richard Wynne (Kathleen’s grandfather), was a rector of Drumcliff, Co. Sligo. Canon Richard Lynn’s father was a medical doctor in Sligo. She was the second child in a family of four. Kathleen thereby became a member of the Protestant Anglo-Irish middle class where the men of the family contributed in lives of service to the church and medicine in a social milieu struggling to recover from the ravages of the Great Famine -- the abject conditions of the poor of rural Ireland no doubt much in need of their ministrations. At first glance, these were not ideal beginnings for a future revolutionary and social activist but it was Kathleen Lynn’s destiny to challenge stereotypes of gender and class positionings. She was born into a historical period of vast social change and ferment across Europe and the first world, when empires and monarchies came crashing down and freedom and nationalism were desired with a passionate intensity we can hardly grasp to-day. This was an era where women questioned and rebelled against their prohibition in the public sphere and their confinement to narrow domestic roles.
Virginia Woolf brings the context and climate into which women such as Kathleen Lynn were born into sharp focus. They belonged to the comfortably off middle class, who, Woolf tells us, in her essay ‘Two Women’, could afford to educate their sons but not their daughters. According to Woolf, the daughters do not go to school – rather, they had lessons at home and got on as best they could. In Woolf’s words,
“But if their positive education has stopped at a little Latin, a little history, a little housework, it would not so much have mattered. It was what may be called the negative education, that which decrees not what you may do but what you may not do that cramped and stifled. Probably only women who have laboured under it can understand the weight of discouragement produced by being perpetually told that nothing much is expected of them … Women who have lived in the atmosphere produced by such teaching know how it stifles and chills; how hard it is to work creatively through it (Woolf,
A Woman’s Essay p.115-116).
This group of women, described by Virginia Woolf as half-occupied, always interrupted, with much leisure but little time to themselves and no money of their own if they did wish to pursue an education or career in a serious professional way had no access to adequate training. Until 1893, women artists were not admitted to the Royal Hibernian Academy Schools where men intending to pursue a career as a professional artist went to study. Neither were women admitted to medical schools until the last decade of the 19th century and early years of the 20th century. But there were factors in Kathleen Lynn’s biography which helped her sidestep such obstacles. An ethos of service and philanthropy permeated the Wynne and Lynn families. Kathleen’s mother, Katherine, was long remembered in Cong for her kindness and philanthropy and Kathleen’s first cousin, Dr. Francis Smartt of Ballymahon was noted for his commitment to the distressed, sick and poor people of his district. Their examples fanned the flames of desire in the young Kathleen that sustained her lifelong dedication to public service and medicine. Early on, she determined to become a medical doctor, one of a handful of early pioneering women to be admitted to medical school. At the age of 16, she attended the newly opened Alexandra College, a very forward looking young women’s establishment run by progressive teachers who facilitated and advocated for, as far as possible, women taking their place as full citizens by teaching Latin, Maths., etc., all required subjects for further education. Kathleen is acknowledged as a gifted student and, from there, she proceeded, after attending educational establishments in the UK and Germany, in 1894, aged 20 years to the Cecilia Street Medical School (the precursor to to-day’s University College Dublin Medical School) – a Catholic establishment because Trinity College Medical School did not admit women until 10 years later in 1904.
Entering the medical profession, as Kathleen did, marked her out as one of a small brand of mould breaking women of her era. Two other graduates of Alexandra, Isabella Ovenden and Catherine Maguire, were also first generation medical women. Kathleen graduated in June 1899 winning the prestigious Hudson Prize and a Silver Medal. But her path was not without challenges. Her biographer, Dr. Ó’ hÓgartaigh, tells us that she was refused a student residency in the prestigious Adelaide Hospital because there were objections on gender grounds and attitudes to female doctors abroad in Dublin at the time can perhaps be summed up by an ode to female medicals published in the Catholic University Student Magazine.
Ode to the Lady Medicals
Though all the world's a stage and we are acting, Yet still I think your part is not dissecting, To me the art of making apple tarts Would suit you better than those ‘horrid parts’. --- And as for learning Chemistry and that ‘Twould be a nicer thing to trim a hat. I know your aims in medicine are true But tell me is there any need of you?
Undeterred, Kathleen Lynn proceeded with her medical studies gaining the top qualifications in her profession. In 1909, after postgraduate studies in the United States and extensive experience in Rotunda, Sir Patrick Dunn’s, Royal Victoria Eye and Ear hospitals, Dr. Lynn was awarded a fellowship in the Royal College of Surgeons, only the third woman to be admitted to that august body, her lengthy and no doubt expensive education bringing to fruition Anne Jellico’s (the founder of Alexandra College) vision that Irish women would have an education that would fit them to take up a career of usefulness and independence. Lynn’s socio-economic position brought her privileges that enabled her to take advantage of a historical moment and a tide of events that provided opportunities denied to women of her mother’s generation and to all but the privileged few of her own generation and Kathleen Lynn became deeply aware of these social inequalities.

A Radical Woman
Kathleen Lynn did not settle for reaping the benefits of her long and no doubt arduous education which would have rewarded her with a comfortable income and a respected place in society and which in 1910 gained her tenure in a coveted clinical post in the Royal Eye and Ear Hospital.
Her experiences of abject rural poverty in Mayo and the attrition of the Land War on the rural poor coupled with her medical experience of Dublin’s extreme poverty and the resulting high mortality and morbidity rates directly arising from insanitary housing conditions and malnutrition awakened in her a spirit of revulsion and rebellion against gross social injustices that she saw everywhere around her. She might reside in the relative comfort of Belgrave Road, Rathmines, but over the first decade of the 2oth century, Dr. Kathleen Lynn in an almost incredible metamorphosis, became in 1916 a woman capable of standing shoulder to shoulder with James Connolly as Chief Medical Officer of the Irish Citizen Army with the rank of Captain and who 100 years ago almost to the day entered Dublin’s City Hall, a bastion of the establishment, second in command to Seán Connolly in armed rebellion against the British Empire. Her transformation to radical revolutionary occurred in the context of Dublin which Marie Mulholland described as a ‘radical stew’ of diverse colours consisting of a multitude of organisations supporting a renaissance of all things Gaelic—language, sports, history, music – a cultural revival reclaiming Gaelic myths and legends of the past and establishing a Gaelic theatre and culture. Of particular relevance is the Irish Women Suffragists Association, founded by Anne Haslam a Quaker and where, by 1905, Kathleen Lynn, together with Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington and Jenny Wyse Powers, was a member of the National Committee actively working for full rights of citizenship for women.
The Centenary of the 1798 Rebellion reawakened aspirations of nationalism and alongside that the urban poor of Dublin and their protagonists became sensitised to the social forces that underpinned their dire predicament. The analysis provided by Jim Larkin and James Connolly within the context of the growing labour movement proved its validity in the terrible lockout of 1913 when Kathleen Lynn was in Liberty Hall which provided medical services and a soup kitchen for Dublin’s poor and other relief services for women and children. Here, Dr. Kathleen Lynn stood alongside Delia Larkin, Helena Molony, Constance Markievicz, Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington and Madeleine ffrench-Mullen, Lynn’s lifelong companion and fellow traveller. The harshness with which the striking workers and their very vulnerable families were treated was a bruising and radicalising experience for these women and imbued them with a lifelong commitment to the ideals of Connolly’s socialist party. His writings, laced with contemporary theories of class and labour struggles provided a progressive framework uniting feminism and nationalism. Women were welcomed as full members with equal rights within Connolly’s Irish republican socialism. These women witnesses of the Lock Out remained lifelong supporters of the cause of labour and the emancipation and betterment of the working class, working to establish and maintain The Irish Women’s Union of which Kathleen Lynn and Madeleine ffrench-Mullen were vice-presidents. Marie Mulholland points out that in Dublin of the early years of the 20
th century, there existed a cohort of activist women who made up the membership of a multiplicity of organisations and movements supporting nationalist, feminist and workers’ rights, among them Cumann na mBan and Inghínidhe na hÉireann. The same names appear again and again on membership and associate lists. The women, Mulholland tells us, were “alliance builders, political comrades, activists”, but they were also sisters in arms, friends who provided emotional and social support for each other and the intensity of the campaigning work of these transgressive women provided a comraderie, joy and sense of purpose we can only envy.
Revolutionary Woman
In the lead up to Easter 1916, Kathleen Lynn, like many other women, crossed the threshold from social activism into armed revolution. James Connolly, admiring her calm dedication during the dreadful days of the Lock Out, invited her to join the Irish Citizen Army. Connolly’s Citizen Army was constituted to protect Dublin workers and their families against institutionalised violence of employers backed up by State forces. It was the only organised force that admitted women as full members and provided uniforms and military training and equipment on a same level for women and men. At the age of 42 years, Dr. Kathleen Lynn, Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, clinical resident physician in the Royal Eye and Ear Hospital and practising General Practitioner became a Captain and Chief Medical Officer of the Irish Citizen Army. As we can imagine, this act came at great personal cost – alienation, at least temporarily, from her astonished family, loss of personal friendships and social ostracism, the trauma of war and in the fullness of time, jail in Kilmainham and Mountjoy and deportation and loss of her job in the Royal Eye and Ear Hospital. In the lead up to the Easter Rising, Lynn prepared a plan for a medical and ambulance response to cope with anticipated casualties, organising and teaching first aid classes to the Irish Citizens Army and Cumann na mBan. She drove members of the Citizen Army, including James Connolly, to various venues in Dublin in her car, depositing arms in preparation and her house in Belgrave Road was a depot and despatch point for arms brought illegally into the country. Kathleen Lynn was involved at a high level in the preparation for the Easter Rising and she was centrally involved on Easter Monday. As already mentioned, Dr. Lynn was in City Hall under the command of Seán Connolly whose death she witnessed on the roof of City hall from a sniper bullet wound and she attended him together with his girlfriend, Helena Molony in the last moments of his life. After his death, Lynn assumed command of the garrison as the next most senior officer until the surrender. In captivity in Ship Street Barracks, Kilmainham and Mountjoy, Lynn continued her medical role, protesting against insanitary conditions and trying to broker improvements in conditions for her fellow prisoners. In Kilmainham, she was united with Madeleine ffrench-Mullen who had been in Surgeons with Constance Markievicz . On May 2nd, she noted in her diary, ”Saw MffM early this morning – greatest joy”, an indication of the relief at being reunited with her partner and the woman with whom she shared her life. But their joy was short lived. Unknown to the women, the leaders were housed in another wing of Kilmainham and soon the executions began. Kathleen notes in her diary: “On Tues., Wed., Thurs. at 3a.m. we heard volleys from under cell windows” then, the sombre comment, “they have shot members of the Provisional Government”. On May 10th Kathleen Lynn, Countess Markievicz, Helena Molony and Madeleine ffrench-Mullen and the other women were moved to Mountjoy and from there in June, Kathleen was deported to England and allowed to avoid jail by working as a locum GP after intervention and appeals on her behalf by influential family and friends.
At the end of Easter week, due to heavy bombardment by British artillery and gunships, the centre of Dublin was in ruins. Mulholland tells us that 142 British soldiers and RIC members, 64 volunteers, 254 civilians, including women and children were killed and a further 2,000 had been wounded. It certainly was a cataclysmic moment that would have a profound influence on shaping the subsequent 100 years of Irish history. Much is still to be understood about this bloody and confusing period of our history and the motivations of its leaders and outcomes, not least the role women played. Was the bloodshed justified? It is a debatable point but what we can say from our stance in 2016 is that there were women revolutionaries involved and that Dr. Kathleen Lynn was foremost among them. Indeed, historians estimate that some 200 women were on active duty in Easter Week.
While subsequent events would see Kathleen and the other women silenced in Irish public life and written out of its history, when she died in 1955, Eamon de Valera sat in his car outside the Protestant Church where her funeral service was taking place, compliant with Catholic edict which forbade entrance to a Protestant Church, awaiting to attend her funeral where she was accorded full military honours and volleys of shots were fired over her grave by the old IRA, a rare occurrence in the case of the women revolutionaries.

Humanitarian and Medical Pioneer
In the aftermath of Easter week and deportation, Dr. Kathleen Lynn was elected a member of the Sinn Féin Executive (an umbrella organisation for the myriad nationalist organisations) and she was appointed its Director of Public Health. The Spanish flu and venereal disease epidemics became a grave public health crisis in Dublin in the aftermath of the First World War. Dr. Lynn and other women medics were able to import a flu vaccine that provided some protection and Kathleen Lynn is remembered for her Trojan efforts to vaccinate Dublin’s poor citizens. The high infant mortality rate and the plight of children born with venereal disease and the dire outcomes of widespread malnutrition galvanised Dr. Lynn, Madeleine ffrench-Mullen and their associates to set up a children’s hospital, St. Ultan’s in 1919. Paediatrics was a newly developing field of medicine and St. Ultan’s from it opened its doors in 1919 under Kathleen’s medical direction and with Madeleine as administrator, sought to provide the most up to date procedures of paediatrics and public health medicine, including BCG vaccination and the experimental trials of streptomycin to treat tuberculosis. The development and survival of St. Ultan’s was to be Kathleen and Madeleine’s primary focus for the rest of their lives demanding huge commitment, skills and resourcefulness to meet the never ending financial and clinical demands of this admirable enterprise. St. Ultan’s provided not only an inpatient unit but also an integrated and broad ranging service, including hygiene classes and baby care for women, an outreach domiciliary nursing and social work service and a Montessori ward for children, that puts our fragmented services of to-day to shame. All this was accomplished with minimal state backing and in the face of growing political opposition from the Catholic Church and the State, both suspicious of a Protestant hospital having access to catholic children. As Maeve Ruane points out, Dr. Lynn and Dr. Maria Montessori (who visited St. Ultan’s in the 1930s) showed a profound belief in the essential human and civil rights of children and both attracted the condemnation of church and state for their beliefs and efforts.
As the ideals of Irish republican socialism gave way to a rigid Catholic nationalism, it must have taken all of Kathleen’s and the women activists’ considerable reserves of courage and determination to battle on in a country that wouldn’t allow them to sit on a jury or work at their professions after marriage, confining them to home duties and where their voices grew dimmer and dimmer in the public arena. After such hopeful beginnings in the heady days of emancipation and hope at the beginning of the 20
th century, we can only imagine the despair of those dynamic women that took its toll on lives only half lived in domestic confinement. As Marie Farrell commented to me, when she was researching Kathleen’s life, “It must have been like returning to prison with the doors of opportunity firmly closed in perpetuity”.
Post-Revolutionary Woman
After the trauma of Easter Week 1916, came the bloody civil war and Kathleen was on the anti-treaty side. She saw active service in Tipperary and was elected as a TD for Sinn Féin in 1923 but did not take her seat. Both herself and Madeleine were very active local councillors vigorously pursuing the improvement of housing conditions, sanitation, control of infectious diseases and issues of school meals and malnourishment in children, complementing their work in St. Ultan’s on behalf of Dublin’s women and children. Ever the pragmatist in the peace, Kathleen had the skills to reach out to old enemies when needs must in order to garner support for her cause. On one memorable occasion, Dr. Ó hÓgartaigh tells us, that she persuaded Eamon de Valera to lend his name to one of the St. Ultan’s fund-raising Aeríochts to St. Ultan’s well in Co. Meath in order to ensure large crowds and better financial results. When she died in 1955, DeValera set up the Kathleen Lynn Memorial Fund which raised sufficient monies to fund a new operating theatre for St. Ultan’s, perhaps his belated effort to make amends for the hospital having been starved of state funds during her lifetime and the opposition to Lynn’s efforts to establish a National Children’s Hospital.
Lynn was on the losing side in the Civil War. Her political philosophy was the republicanism of Wolfe Tone and the socialism of James Connolly and this informed her medical and social justice agendas but such values and aspirations had little or no place in the emerging Irish State.
But somehow, Kathleen Lynn, because of her positioning as an independent woman GP and RMO of St. Ultan’s was able to, at least partially, evade the banishment from the public sphere endured by women in the newly founded State. With Madeleine’s loyal support, she continued her work, although in a restricted way, to counteract the grave social inequalities that persisted after the foundation of the Irish State. We can only stand in awe of the courage, ingenuity and persistence of those two women.

Our 13 artists have engaged deeply with Lynn’s multi-faceted life.
Garry Coyle references Lynn’s efforts to break the cycle of deprivation through the provision of decent social housing and draws our attention to the fact that in 2014 in the midst of an acute housing shortage, Dublin Corporation demolished the ffrench-Mullen block of flats in Charlemont St., next door to St. Ultan’s, built as a result of campaigning by Kathleen and Madeleine and their associates, designed by architect, Michael Scott.
Will O’Kane and Geraldine O’Reilly in their evocative images of ruin and decay and traces of histories at Lynn’s birthplace and at her father’s church provide aesthetically beautiful but nevertheless painful reminders of our failures of stewardship of our precious heritage. Patrick Graham’s work addresses issues of history layered into the very landscape and fabric of Mayo.
Here in the Linenhall, Margot McNulty insightfully explores Kathleen Lynn’s archived belongings and traces of her life and the lives of those she encountered. Also, in the Linenhall, Joanna Hopkins pays a moving floral tribute to Kathleen and Madeleine and I for one will be queuing up on the last day of the Exhibition to take up her offer of a flower from the Installation as a memento of those wonderful women. Using photographic collage and sculpture Mary Kelly’s and Janet Mullarney’s work contributes powerfully to the ongoing revisioning of women’s contribution. Conor O’Grady, here at the Linenhall, raises issues relevant to contemporary Irish women and asks why we have not achieved the equality proposed by our Proclamation. Michelle Browne’s work is informed by feminist theory and community acts of resistance to injustice. Séamas Nolan also raises contemporary issues of Kurdish women’s resistance to tribal and ISIS oppression and draws parallels with our own histories.
Dermot Seymour’s painting here at the Linenhall raises alarming issues of environmental pollution , with profound health implications, from the old Asahi site in close proximity to Kathleen Lynn’s birthplace, issues which would, indeed, deeply disturb Kathleen Lynn if she were with us to-day. Deirdre O’Mahony’s provocative questions concerning the way we treat our most vulnerable citizens are indeed food for thought and hold up a mirror for us to see our values and priorities through Dr. Kathleen Lynn’s eyes.
Conclusion: Kathleen’s Challenge
While Dr. Lynn would have applauded our stable democracy and the fact that we have fulfilled Robert Emmet’s wish that Ireland take its place among the nations of the world, there is no doubt that Kathleen Lynn’s Ireland would have been a different country. They would have done things differently there. To-day, thirty-six thousand families would not be living in fear of losing their homes. To-night, 1,600 children and their parents would not be distressed and homeless living in temporary accommodation. Neither would our sick citizens, at their most vulnerable moment, have to run the gauntlet of a dysfunctional A&E service to gain access to essential medical care. Nor would our people with disabilities and their carers be first in line for punitive cutbacks to their vital services when the Troika and the International Monetary Fund came calling to halt our profligacy of the Celtic Tiger years. The rules of international capital would not be given primacy. Rather, values of participation, citizens’ rights, equality of access to life chances and a social justice agenda would have prevailed in Dr. Lynn’s Ireland. The pragmatic, creative, skilful, humanitarian woman that Dr. Lynn was would surely have found methodologies to cherish all of our nation equally. As I engaged with Dr. Lynn’s and Madeleine ffrench-Mullen’s values and aspirations and their extraordinary achievements, I have come to realise that 100 years on from the events of Easter week 1916, now in 2016, we are , perhaps, at a seminal moment in our history that allows us to reclaim the lost possibilities of our Republic. Perhaps, we can reclaim something of James Connolly’s and Kathleen Lynn’s Plough and Stars. We have a window of opportunity to revision our future and build an Ireland more in keeping with Kathleen Lynn’s vision. This is Kathleen’s challenge to all of us, not just our beleaguered politicians.
Kathleen Lynn, transgressive, mould-breaking woman of courage, integrity and vision, outstanding humanitarian, we re-member thee to-day in your native County Mayo in the building where General Humbert’s victory ball was held in 1798.
The Mayo Arts Collaborative of five publicly funded (by the Arts Council and Mayo County Council) art venues (the Linenhall Arts Centre; Custom House Gallery, Westport; Áras Inis Gluaire, Belmullet; Ballinglen Arts Foundation; and Ballina Arts Centre) are to be commended for gifting us with this joyous opportunity to remember Dr. Kathleen Lynn.
My congratulations especially to Marie Farrell, who has long been interested in Kathleen Lynn’s life and work, and to all the hard-working staff of the 5 venues that comprise the Mayo Arts Collaborative; to Curator, Catherine Marshall, and our 13 artists for ably and creatively mediating intriguing aspects of Kathleen Lynn’s multi-faceted life for us. You have all contributed a very fitting tribute to an exceptional woman.
I am honoured to declare the Exhibition
Kathleen Lynn Insider on the Outside open on this historic Easter Saturday 100 years after 1916.
On a final note, Kathleen Lynn loved Irish music and culture and the Irish countryside brought her much joy and, no doubt, sustained her long and productive life. I know she would have been greatly delighted to join us on our journey through Mayo’s spectacular landscape. May we set off on our Mayo Arts Collaborative Odyssey in the spirit of a joyful St. Ultan’s Aeríocht for a day of engagement with each other and with the life of Dr. Kathleen Lynn, Honoured Daughter of Mayo.
Dr. Ann O’Mahony Easter Saturday 2016 Email:

Bureau of Military History, Witness Statements Dr. Kathleen Lynn.
Darcy, C. (2015),
Together in Arms: Kathleen Lynn and Madeline ffrench-Mullen, Paper delivered at the Inaugural Sarah Lundberg Summer School, July 18th 2015,
East Wall History Society (2015), “Kathleen Lynn: The Rebel Doctor and the North Docks”,
Paper delivered at the Inaugural Sarah Lundberg Summer School, July 18th 2015,
McCoole, S. (2016), “Kathleen Lynn of Mayo: A Brave and Wise Soul”, in Mayo Arts Collaborative.
McCoole, S. (n/d), Seven Women of the Labour Movement,
Marshall, C. (2016), “Kathleen Lynn Insider on the Outside,
Mayo Arts Collaborative.
Mayo Arts Collaborative (2016),
Insider on the Outside.
Mulholland, M. (2002), The Politics and Relationships of Dr. Kathleen Lynn, Woodfield Press.
Ó’ hÓgartaigh, M. (2005), “St. Ultan’s: A Women’s Hospital for Infants” in 20
th Century, Social Perspectives, Issue 4 July/August 2005, Vol.13.
Ó’ hÓgartaigh, M. (2006), Kathleen Lynn, Irishwoman, Patriot, Doctor, Irish Academic Press.
University College Dublin School of Medicine and Medical Science (2015),
Dr. Kathlenn Lynn (1874-1955) Revolutionary Doctor/An Dochtúr Réabhlóideach,
Loopline Film (2015),
The Secret Diaries of Dr. Kathleen Lynn,