Githa Sowerby

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Portrait of Sowerby by George Percy Jacomb-Hood, circa 1912

Katherine Githa Sowerby (6 October 1876 – 30 June 1970), also known under her pen name K. G. Sowerby, was an English playwright, children's writer, and member of the Fabian Society. A feminist, she was well-known during the early twentieth century for her 1912 hit play Rutherford & Son, but lapsed into obscurity in later decades.[1]

Rutherford & Son was first revived in 1980, and since then there have been several productions, including one at the Royal National Theatre in 1994 and, most recently, by Sheffield Theatres. A biography of Sowerby by Pat Riley, Looking for Githa, appeared in 2009, with a revised edition in 2019. In addition to several plays, Sowerby wrote books of poetry and short stories for children, illustrated by her sister Millicent Sowerby.[2] Her papers and memorabilia are in the collections at the Tyne and Wear Archives.[3]

Life and career[edit]

Sowerby was born in 1876 in Gateshead, England, into the Sowerbys, a glass-making family.[1] Her father, John G. Sowerby, was an artist and grandson of naturalist James Sowerby, and her mother was Amy Margaret Sowerby (née Hewison).[2] Sowerby married John Kendall,[2] and they had one daughter, Joan (1918-2013)[4]

Rutherford & Son was a "sensation"[3] and a "massive success"[5] in its 1912 London debut, running for 133 performances in London and 63 performances in New York.[1] Literary critic Barrett Harper Clark, writing in 1915, declared it "among the most powerful works of the younger generation".[6] It was also produced in Canada and Australia, and translated into numerous other languages,[1] including German, French, Italian, Russian, and Bohemian.[3] Originally produced under the pen name "G. K. Sowerby", it was only later revealed that the author of the hit play was a woman; Sowerby then achieved instant celebrity.[5] Sowerby's writing was compared to Henrik Ibsen's at that point, while known only by the gender-neutral initials "G. K."[7]



  1. ^ a b c d Barbara Hodgson, "Author Is Brought Back to Life", The Journal, 17 September 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Parker, John, ed. (1922). "Sowerby, Katherine Githa". Who's Who in the Theatre. Pitman. p. 748.
  3. ^ a b c Mark Brown, "Githa Sowerby, the forgotten playwright, returns to the stage", Guardian, 14 August 2009
  4. ^ Riley, Looking for Githa, Revised edition 2019
  5. ^ a b BBC, "Tyneside honours forgotten writer" (26 August 2009).
  6. ^ Barrett Harper Clark (1915). "Githa Sowerby". The British and American Drama of To-day: Outlines for Their Study. H. Holt. pp. 154–155.
  7. ^ Rose Drew, "Patricia Riley on Playwright Githa Sowerby" Archived 31 January 2013 at, One&Other: York, 11 December 2011.

Further reading[edit]

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