As Black History Month wraps up, the CPBA would be remiss if it didn’t introduce you to Marie Marguerite Rose (1715-1757); the first Black woman on record to own and operate a tavern in what we now know as Canada.
Rose was born in 1715 in Guinea, West Africa, but then kidnapped as a teenager and taken to Île Royale, the French settlement now known as Cape Breton, Nova Scotia [Unama’ki], where she was baptized and given the Christian name Marie Marguerite.
In 1736, she was sold into enslavement to a French military officer and merchant. In 1755, she was emancipated and went on to marry Jean Baptiste Laurent, a local Mi’kmaw man. Together, as equal legal actors, they ran a successful inn and tavern in what is now known in modern day as Louisburg, NS, making her the first Black business owner in the recorded history of Canada.
According to those ledgers, Rose was quite the savvy operator, and gained the trust of so many of her clients that they had her representing their financial interests outside the inn as well, getting her guidance for substantial amounts of money for them.
Unfortunately, her dreams were short lived, as Rose passed away in 1757. Although many questions about her life remain unanswered, she is most certainly remembered as one of the first Black women to assert her rights at a time when they were far from assured. In 2008, Rose was made a Person of National Historic Significance by the Government of Canada. Her story is a great reminder of Canada’s incredibly rich Black history in the hospitality industry.