Rose Fortune was born on March 13, 1774. She was born into slavery in Virginia. Her family escaped slavery during the American Revolution and settled in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, Canada, as part of the Black Loyalist migration. Although Black Loyalists were free, opportunities for employment were scarce for them. Fortune didn’t rest until she was working and making her keep.
In 1825, Fortune started her own business carting luggage between the ferry docks and nearby homes and hotels. Later, she implemented a rudimentary “wake-up call” service in which she would alert people at nearby inns in danger of missing departing ships. She became entrusted with safeguarding property and maintaining order on the wharves and warehouses of Annapolis Royal, acting as the town’s waterfront police officer. She also imposed and enforced curfews at the wharves and the surrounding areas, hence enforcing the law at early Annapolis Royal. Many consider her the first Black policewoman in Canada.
Rose Fortune died on February 20, 1864. After Fortune passed, her grandson Albert Lewis took over the business; family members continued the service until 1980. The Association of Black Law Enforcers created a scholarship in her name.
In 1984, her descendant Daurene Lewis became the first Black-Canadian female mayor, as she was elected mayor of Annapolis Royal.