Rose Fortune | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Rose Fortune

Rose Fortune, entrepreneur (born 1774 at Virginia; died 20 February 1864 at Nova Scotia). Rose Fortune, a Black Loyalist originally from the US, is best-known for her talent as a businesswoman at a time when neither women nor Black persons were encouraged to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities (see Black Canadians) and when the feminist movement in Canada was decades away. Born during the American Revolution to enslaved persons, Fortune emigrated to Canada at age ten. Her family settled in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, a popular destination for black Loyalists.
Rose Fortune
Black Loyalist and entrepreneur, Rose Fortune (courtesy Nova Scotia Museum).

Although they were granted freedom from enslavement, earning a living was difficult for black Loyalists who came to Canada. Yet, over time Fortune developed two lucrative businesses in the area. She began working as a baggage carrier, transporting luggage and provisions from ships, which she would deliver in her wheelbarrow. Later, she implemented a rudimentary "wake-up call" service in which she would alert people at nearby inns in danger of missing departing ships. Fortune also imposed and enforced curfews at the wharves and the surrounding area, hence enforcing the law at early Annapolis Royal. Many consider her the first policewoman in Canada.

In time, Fortune's entrepreneurial pursuits became lucrative. Her baggage company became known as Lewis Transfer in 1841, and horse-drawn wagons replaced wheelbarrows. Fortune's grandchildren carried on the family business for the next 100 years.

Fortune's legacy continues today. The Association of Black Law Enforcers have created a scholarship in her name, and her descendant Daurene Lewis became the first Black female mayor in North America. Numerous descendants still work in the shipping and trucking business.

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