THE Diaries of Kathleen Lynn: A Life Revealed through Personal Writing, explores the remarkable life of Irish politician, suffrage activist, revolutionary, social campaigner and medical doctor Dr Kathleen Lynn (1874-1955).
The diaries are introduced and edited by Irish historian Dr Mary McAuliffe (recently seen in David Olugosa’s programme “Union” on BBC2) and Harriet Wheelock, who was brought up in Monmouth.
Harriet attended Osbaston Primary School and Monmouth Comprehensive School before studying History at Trinity College, Dublin.
She is now Keeper of Collections at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) in Dublin with responsibility for the management and development of RCPI’s Heritage Centre.
Harriet is a PhD student in the TU (Technical University) Dublin School of Creative Arts, where her research focuses on the development and historiography of RCPI’s heritage collections.
Through a careful selection of excerpts from Lynn’s extensive personal diaries, which commence in 1916 and continue almost daily until her death in 1955, this book provides an extraordinarily close insight into Lynn’s social, private and political life, and her relationship with many of the key political figures of Ireland in the first half of the 20th century.
A committed revolutionary, Lynn recorded her involvement in the Easter Rising, the War of Independence, and the Civil War. As its chief medical officer, she was one of the few women officers in the Irish Citizens Army (ICA).
Lynn’s diaries also cover her work as a medical doctor, including the 1918-19 Spanish Flu pandemic, the establishment of St Ultan’s Hospital for Infants in 1919, and the fight against tuberculosis (TB) in Ireland.
The diaries demonstrate Lynn’s commitment to better housing and education for all, particularly those caught in the vicious cycle of poverty in the Dublin slums.
Her interest in child-centred education, which led her to invite Maria Montessori to Ireland in 1930, is also well documented.
Discussing the book at last week’s Dublin book festival, Harriet said:
“Our motivation was to make Lynn’s diaries more widely accessible. Past archival practices have, in many cases, marginalised or silenced the voices of women and, in a previously male dominated profession, women’s archives were often considered of less value, or only of relevance to domestic issues. This view has obscured the role and important contributions of many women in the social, political and – in Lynn’s case – medical worlds.”
The Diaries of Kathleen Lynn: A Life Revealed through Personal Writing , UCD Press, ISBN 9781910820018. RRP €45.