Black Stories: Annie Saunders & Entrepreneurship

Annie “Auntie” Saunders was a remarkable pioneer in the history of Southern Alberta, a rare possibility for a Black woman in the 1800's. 

Post Details

Written By

Samantha Bingeman


Black Stories

Date Posted

February 9, 2024

Entrepreneurship as a Black Woman in Western Canada

Annie saunders

“The captivating woman in the 120-year-old photograph was tired of being hidden and I was drawn into a search that may last the rest of my life” – Foggo, 2012

Annie “Auntie” Saunders spent over a century lost in history until Cheryl Foggo stumbled upon her in a photograph, intended as a gift for Colonel James Macleod’s family, bearing the simple yet significant inscription “Auntie.” Initially recognized as the nanny of the Macleod children in the late 1800s, Saunders’s narrative transcended beyond her role as a caregiver.

Following her time working for the Macleod family, Annie Saunders also ran several businesses, including a laundry service, a restaurant and even a catering business, just to name a few. We can only imagine the difficulties she had to face while running these businesses as a single Black woman in the late 1800’s.

Annie Saunders’ story sheds light on the resilience and entrepreneurship of Black women in the Canadian West, challenging stereotypes and contributing to the diversity of experiences within Canada’s historical narrative.

The Sandstone House is a replica based on Macleod’s real-life home in the late 1800s, likely housing Saunders as well. The original house, upon which the 2/3-scale Heritage Park replica is based, likely stood tall by 1887. 

Annie Saunders’ presence in this home would have been integral, providing care and stability to the Macleod children. Her commitment and resilience illuminate the daily experiences of the Black pioneers who contributed to shaping early Alberta. The replica of their home at Heritage Park provides a tangible connection to the past, inviting us to imagine Saunders’s presence within its walls.

Learn more about Saunders’ role at the Park’s “Sandstone House,” and read more Black pioneer stories here.

A special thanks to Cheryl Foggo, an acclaimed author, filmmaker, and playwright spotlighting the lives of African-descended western Canadians. In Canada, it is imperative for Black individuals to be the narrators of their own stories and history, as their firsthand knowledge and understanding authentically capture the essence of their unique experiences.


Foggo, C. (2012, March 16). ‘Call Me Auntie’: Excavating the histories of Black women pioneers in Western Canada | FHSS. Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Olsen, E. (2021, February 1). Black History Month: The Untold story of ‘Auntie’ Annie Saunders in Southern Alberta. Global News.

photo reference

Colonel James F. Macleod’s children and their nurse, ‘Auntie’.”, [ca. 1890], (CU1154667) by Unknown. Courtesy of Libraries and Cultural Resources Digital Collections, University of Calgary.

“Annie Saunders,” [ca. 1890], by Unknown. Courtesy of “Black History Month: The untold story of ‘Auntie’ Annie Saunders in southern Alberta,” Global Calgary.

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