MacWhinney, Linda Kearns- (1888–1951), republican and nurse, was born in July 1888 in Carrowmorris, Dromard, Co. Sligo, daughter of Thomas Kearns of Dromard and Catherine Kearns (née Clarke). She received her primary education at the local national school but was sent to Brussels, Belgium, to attend secondary school. She subsequently returned to Dublin to train as a nurse at Baggot St. hospital. Having joined Cumann na mBan shortly after its formation in 1914, she associated with Countess Markievicz (qv) and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington (qv), and became a close friend of Thomas MacDonagh (qv). On the outbreak of the 1916 rising she postponed plans of emigrating to Australia, and on the Wednesday of Easter week set up a Red Cross field hospital on North Great George's St. She later closed the hospital when ordered by a British officer to restrict her work to British army personnel, and spent the remainder of the week working as a courier and nurse for the rebel forces around the GPO. In the aftermath of the rising she returned to her nursing duties, and was active in combating the influenza epidemic of 1918 on Achill Island.
She remained involved with Cumann na mBan after 1916 and, as a car owner, became invaluable as a despatch carrier and arms smuggler during the war of independence in both Dublin and her native Sligo. On 20 November 1920 she was arrested by a joint party of RIC and Black and Tans while transporting three Volunteers and a substantial cargo of arms from Sligo to Ballymote. She was interrogated at Sligo jail before being transferred by destroyer to Derry, and subsequently to Armagh women's prison. In March 1921 she was tried at Victoria Barracks, Belfast, and sentenced (25 March) to ten years' penal servitude. After her transfer to Walton women's prison in Liverpool (12 April) her health deteriorated and she spent much of the next five months in the prison hospital. This ill health resulted in her transfer to Mountjoy jail (15 September). On 31 October she and three other inmates, including Eithne Coyle (qv), escaped from Mountjoy using a forged key and a rope ladder. She remained in hiding at Dugget's Grove, Co. Carlow, until the treaty was signed on 6 December 1921. An account of her activities between 1916 and 1921, edited by novelist and fellow nurse Annie M. P. Smithson (qv), was published in 1922 as In time of peril: leaves from the diary of Nurse Linda Kearns from Easter week to Mountjoy 1921.
In 1922 she opposed the treaty and worked as a nurse for the anti-treaty forces in Dublin when the civil war began. One of only three women allowed to remain in the Hammam hotel after shelling began, she treated the wounded Cathal Brugha (qv), unsuccessfully attempting to staunch his bleeding by holding his severed artery closed with her fingers. She was then directed by Éamon de Valera (qv) to accompany Muriel MacSwiney (qv) on a tour of the US to raise funds for the republican cause. She later toured Canada and Australia in a similar capacity.
She resumed work as a nurse on her return to Dublin in 1925, but remained active in politics and was a founder member of Fianna Fáil in 1926. One of only six women elected to its first executive, she took an active part in organising the party in Sligo. Her loyalty to both de Valera and Fianna Fáil did not prevent her from protesting at the discriminatory nature of the conditions of the employment bill (1935) and sections of the 1937 constitution. A strong champion of women's rights, she was appointed to the National Women's Council's standing committee on legislation affecting women, and was a founding member of the Women's Industrial Development Association. The latter organisation nominated her for a seat on the industrial panel of the first senate under the new constitution and she was elected in 1938. She spoke only once in the house before losing her seat after the 1938 election.
She remained devoted to nursing throughout her life and was nominated to the first executive of the Irish Red Cross. As honorary secretary of the Irish Nurses Association she campaigned for funding to set up a rest and holiday home for nurses in Howth, and in 1945 the government allocated her a grant for this purpose. In May 1951 she was awarded the Florence Nightingale medal by the International Red Cross in recognition of her services to nursing.
She married (September 1929) Wilson Charles MacWhinney, a former republican from Derry; they had one daughter. She died 5 June 1951 at Kilrock, Howth, Co. Dublin, in the nurses’ rest home which she had helped found.