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Kathleen Lynn and Rosie Hackett – honouring two remarkable women

The opening of the Rosie Hackett Bridge in Dublin is a reminder of the role played by Mayo-born, Dr. Kathleen Lynn, in the 1916 Rising and her remarkable life which was dedicated to bringing healthcare to the poor children of Dublin.

It is also a reminder of how the paths of two Irish women from very different social backgrounds crossed as each tried to build a more just Ireland, free of colonialism, in the early years of the 20th century.

Dr. Kathleen Lynn (1874-1955) and Rosie Hackett (1892–1976) came from very different social backgrounds, but both were humanitarians who shared a common belief in equality and justice.

Dr. Lynn was born into a comfortable Church of Ireland family in Mullaghfarry, Killala, Co. Mayo, in 1874, and Rosie Hackett was born into a working-class family in a tenement building on Bolton Street in Dublin in 1892.

But both were feminists, social activists, and campaigners for a better Ireland which eventually led to both women playing key roles in the Irish Citizen Army during the fighting of Easter week 1916.

Rosie Hackett joined the ITGWU and later was a co-founder with Delia Larkin of the Irish Women Workers’ Union in 1911. For her trade union activities during the 1913 Dublin Lockout, she was sacked from her job.

Irish Citizen Army

As a member of the Irish Citizen Army, she was one of the rebels who took over Liberty Hall, St Stephen’s Green, and the Royal College of Surgeons during the 1916 Rising.

Kathleen Lynn was one of the first women doctors to graduate from the Royal University of Ireland in 1899.

Active in the women’s suffrage movement, she supported the workers during the 1913 lockout and worked with Countess Markievicz in the soup kitchens in Liberty Hall.

The Irish Citizen Army founder, James Connolly, appointed her Chief Medical Officer to the Irish Citizen Army.

Rosie Hackett (1892–1976) in whose memory Dublin's Rosie hackett Bridge has been named.
Rosie Hackett (1892–1976) in whose memory Dublin’s Rosie Hackett Bridge has been named.

During the 1916 Rising, she was Chief Medical Officer in the City Hall garrison, and when the Officer Commanding was shot, she, as next in command, took over the rebel garrison – a remarkable role for women in those days.

Like Rosie Hackett, she, too, was imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail for a short time after the rebellion was put down by the British army.

In 1917, she was elected to the Sinn Féin Executive and played her part in the War of Independence for which she was arrested in 1918. She was released to assist with the worldwide Flu Epidemic of that year that claimed millions of lives.

Dr Kathleen Lynn was elected a Sinn Fein TD between 1921 and 1926 but, took the anti-treaty side and did not take her Dail seat.

She established St Ultan’s Hospital in 1919 and dedicated her life to providing care for the poor and vulnerable children of Dublin.

Both women were buried with full military honours.

Dr. Kathleen Lynn died in 1955 and she is buried in the Lynn family plot in Deansgrange Cemetery in Dublin. Rosie Hackett died in 1976, at the age of 84, and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

And, like Rosie Hackett, Dr. Kathleen Lynn and her great work as a humanitarian, is to be remembered in her native county with the erection of a monument by Mayo County Council in her memory at her birthplace in Mullaghfarry, Killala, Co. Mayo.

By Anthony Hickey

Follow writer and photographer, Anthony Hickey, as he travels around his native Co. Mayo, Ireland.

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