The World's First Policewoman

Rose Fortune was born into slavery in Virginia in 1774. She was owned by the Devone family, but her family escaped to the Nova Scotia (Canada) town of Annapolis Royal from New York City. Fortune's family were "Black Loyalists."

Black Loyalists were escaped slaves and free Blacks who joined the British army during the American Revolution -- not because they opposed the beliefs of the revolutionaries, but to find liberty. The British army promised any slave freedom in return for their loyalty.

In the late 1700s she appointed herself policewoman of the Annapolis Royal, located on the north shore of Nova Scotia. Although Fortune carried no badge, she had a unique way of dressing. Her petticoat showed under her dress, and over her dress she wore a man's waistcoat and an apron. On her head she wore a lace cap which was tied under her hair. She wore a straw hat on top of the lace cap. Her painted shoes had heels which were several inches high. She usually carried a straw basket and wore white gloves or mittens. Her dress was later adopted by many of the Black Pioneer women when they went to market.

Fortune died in 1864 at the age of 90. Her funeral was held at St. Luke's Anglican Church in Annapolis Royal. She is buried in an unmarked grave in the Royal Garrison cemetery.

Today, Fortune is remembered through scholarships awarded by the Association of Black Law Enforcers. One of Fortune's descendants, Dr. Daurene E. Lewis, became the first Black female mayor when she was elected mayor of Annapolis Royal in 1984.


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