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James Hurst Hawthornthwaite was born in Ireland in 1863. After immigrating to British Columbia, Hawthornthwaite married Elizabeth Ada Bate of Nanaimo, possibly in 1890. Together the couple had ten children: Alan Hurst (1891), Victor (1892), William Esmond (1893), Gilbert Shafto (1895), Leonore Kinghurst (1897), Cecilia Eros (1899), Star (1902), twins Joan and Gwen (1903), and James (ca. 1908). Hawthornthwaite worked as a colliery clerk in the coal mines of Vancouver Island before being elected to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in 1901. Hawthornthwaite represented the Vancouver Island ridings of Nanaimo from 1901 to 1912 and Newcastle from 1918 to 1920. Hawthornthwaite was one of the first socialists elected to the Provincial Parliament and became a member of the newly formed Socialist Party of Canada in 1903. During his tenure in the Legislative Assembly Hawthornthwaite focussed on planning and promoting labour legislation. Hawthornthwaite was instrumental in developing the Workmen's Compensation Act (the first of its kind in Canada). He also introduced legislation for the eight-hour work day and for women's suffrage and he actively opposed the exploitation of Asian labourers in British Columbia. James Hawthornthwaite died in 1926 and is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria, British Columbia.