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entrepreneur Rose Fortune

July 17, 1998

Today, whether or not a woman is married tells us very little about whether she works outside the home and, if so, what she does. In the past, a woman’s marital status said a lot about what she did. At the beginning of the last century, if you were young and unmarried and something other than well off, there was a good chance you would be a domestic servant. When you married, what you did in addition to childrearing and household management often depended on what your husband did. If you were older and unmarried – a spinster or a widow – then it was less predictable how you supported yourself. In the population census taken in those days, “spinster” and “widow” were actually occupational categories. “Wife” was not considered an occupational category!

Rose Fortune was the daughter of Black Loyalist refugees who came to Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, in 1783 when she was ten years old. As you can see from this painting [image was on CoolWomen site, and is hoped to be here soon], Rose had a very big personality. She was quite short, wore a man’s hat, frock coat, a dress, apron and men’s boots.

She appointed herself a police officer (the first known female officer in Canada), imposed curfews and enforced them by going around town and sending stragglers home. Rose started a trucking service for ferry boat passengers using a wheelbarrow to carry luggage to their homes or hotels. She lived until 1864.

One of her descendants, Daurene Lewis, served as mayor of Annapolis Royal in the 1980s. One of our website visitors wrote to tell us that Daurene Lewis was also the first Black female mayor in North America! (See below)

Rose was an entrepreneur (n. person in effective control of a commercial undertaking; one who undertakes a business or enterprise, with a chance of profit or loss).

She was a cool woman!

Dr. Daurene E. Lewis

This descendant of Rose Fortune trained as a registered nurse, and graduated from Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, with a Diploma in Teaching in Schools of Nursing. Daurene also holds an MBA from Saint Mary’s University. She has 30 years experience in health care and business ranging from hospital staff nurse to administrative positions in the provincial home care program, textile artist and business owner to the Executive Director of the Centre for Women in Business at Mount Saint Vincent University.

Daurene has an impressive list of volunteer experience and community involvement. This has included a founding member of the Valley Regional Hospital Foundation Board, Board of Governors Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Board of Directors Black Cultural Centre, Advisory Board Henson College’s Dalhousie County Project which promoted participation of Indigenous Black and Mikmaq individuals in municipal government. Daurene has also served on the executive of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, Gerontology Association of Nova Scotia, Advisory Committee to establish the Provincial Arts Council, and was appointed in 1992 to the Premier’s Monitoring Committee for the Implementation of an Economic Strategy. Daurene served on the National Advisory Committee and chaired the Nova Scotia fund raising committee to establish the James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University.

Daurene is a seventh generation descendant of Black Loyalists who settled in Annapolis Royal in 1783. In 1984, she was elected Mayor of Annapolis Royal thus becoming the first black mayor in Nova Scotia and the first black woman mayor in North America. In 1988, she entered provincial politics and was the first black woman in Nova Scotia to run in a provincial election.

Dr. Lewis’ numerous awards include, in 1993 was the recipient of an honourary degree from Mount Saint Vincent University, 1994, Black Cultural Centre’s Wall of Honour, 1995, Global Citizenship Award commemorating the United Nations 50th Anniversary and in 1998 the Progress Club’s Woman of Excellence award for Public Affairs and Communication.

Daurene is currently on the Board of Directors Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Nova Scotia-PEI Division, Board of Governors Dalhousie University (Chair, Audit Committee), Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society's Bar Council Discipline Sub-committee and Formal Hearing Panelist, Canadian Race Relations Foundation Advisory Board, Minister of Justice’s (NS) Queen’s Counsel Selection Advisory Committee, Board of Directors Metro United Way, Board of Directors Prior Learning Assessment, Board of Directors YMCA, Provincial Health Council, Board of metropolitan Immigrant Settlement Association (IEOP), Black Business Initiative Board of Directors, and Federal Advisory Committee on Supreme Court Judicial Appointments for Nova Scotia.

Daurene enjoys travel and has enjoyed several business/pleasure trips to Asia in recent years.

Resources for this story

  • Wendy Priesnitz, A Kid’s Guide to Starting a Business at Home (The Alternative Press, St. George, ON, 1994)
  • Debbie Moore, When A Woman Means Business (Fontant, London, 1990)
  • Monica Townson, Independent Means: A Canadian Woman’s Guide to Pensions and a Secure Financial Future (MacMillan Canada, 1997)
  • Sylvia Hamilton, “Our Mothers Grand and Great: Black Women of Nova Scotia,” Canadian Woman Studies, Spring 1991.
  • James w. St. G Walker, The Black Loyalists: the Search for a Promised Land in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone, 1783-1870, University of Toronto Press, 1992.
  • Alison Prentice and others, Canadian Women: A History, Harcourt Brace & Company Canada, Ltd., 1996, especially Chapter 3 – “Carders of Wool, Drawers of water: Women’s Work in British North America,” p. 58

This feature was first published on’s predecessor site CoolWomen.


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