Canada’s first female police officer, Rose Fortune (pictured), was born in to slavery in Virginia on this day in 1774, marking the start of what would become a remarkable journey. Fortune’s parents were slaves that lived in a British colony, but escaped during the height of the American Revolutionary War and emigrated when she was 10 years of age to Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. The Valley was a known locale for “Black Loyalists,” African-American inhabitants of British America who sided with British forces in promises for freedom during the war.
Although Black Loyalists were free, opportunities for employment were scarce for them. Fortune didn’t rest on her laurels, though. Instead, she started a baggage and luggage delivery business in 1825 using little more than a wheelbarrow. As her delivery business grew, Fortune later started an alert “wake-up call” service for passengers at inns who needed to make it to the docks for departing ships. As a result of her work on the docks, she began to monitor activity on the wharves.
Setting curfews at the wharves and surrounding areas, Fortune effectively appointed herself as Annapolis Royal’s police officer, making her the first female police officer in Canada.
Fortune’s delivery service continued to thrive, expanding in 1841 to include horse-driven wagons instead of her customary wheelbarrow. After Fortune passed in 1864, her grandson Albert Lewis took over the business and family descendants continued the service until 1980.
In Fortune’s honor, the Association of Black Law Enforcers began a scholarship in her name. Fortune’s descendant, Daurene Lewis (pictured), would eventually become Canada’s first Black female mayor in 1984. Lewis would pass away January 26th of this year.