Rutherford and Son

About the Play

First Production

Premiered in London at the Royal Court 1912

Cast Breakdown
4 women, 4 men
Three acts


Under the tyrannical rule of its patriarch, the Rutherford family must find a way to flourish and prevail. Clearly left wounded by the strain of The Great Unrest, John Rutherford is a mean, spiteful man who squelches the dreams of his children and assumes their primary purpose in life to be heirs to his business. He steals his son’s invention by way of betraying his closest friend and turns his only daughter out onto the street. However, in a surprise ending, his daughter-in-law Mary offers John Rutherford an opportunity for a second chance by offering up her own son as a possible hope for carrying on Ruthererford's legacy. 

  • Rutherford and Son premiered in London with four matinee performances at the Royal Court. Becoming an instant success it ran for 133 performances at the Vaudeville Theatre. Directed by Norman McKinnel, also playing the role of Rutherford, the play was largely well-received. The play focused on the “The Great Unrest,” the period of 1910-1914 during changing industrialism and mass unemployment as well as changing social and sexual roles between men and women. A 1912 review in The Vote called it a “suffrage play although the word is never uttered.” Once it was discovered the piece was written by a woman, Githa Sowerby became a celebrity.  Unfortunately, the play was overlooked much later and did not see a revival until the 1994 Royal National Theatre production directed by Katie Mitchell. The Threshold Theatre honored Githa by staging it at the Northern Stage, Newcastle upon Tyne in 2009.


Brown, Mark. "Githa Sowerby, the Forgotten Playwright, Returns to the Stage." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 14 Aug. 2009. Web. 24 June 2016.

Marti Maraden. Rutherford and Son Study Guide. Ottawa: Marti Maraden, 2004. Rutherford Guide. The National Arts Center English Theatre. Web.

Sowerby, Githa. "Full Text of "Rutherford and Son; a Play in Three Acts""Full Text of "Rutherford and Son; a Play in Three Acts" University of California, n.d. Web. 24 June 2016.

About the Playwright

Githa Sowerby
Githa Sowerby
(October 6th 1876 -June 30th 1970) Githa Sowerby is a feminist playwright only recently lauded for her accomplishments. She grew up in obscurity  and began writing children’s books under the penname K.G. Sowerby which were illustrated by her sister Millicent Sowerby.  Githa was thrust into stardom when she struck a chord with audiences with her 1912 hit Rutherford and Son. The play, loosely based on her life, describes  challenges the role and expectations of women in the male dominated, indust…
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Beth Watkins
Allegheny College
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