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History & Museum >Historical Stories

Mary Ellen Dunn (nee Halpin)
29 June 1873 – 29 January 1928
of 759 Broadway

 

Historical Stories Main

On the 22nd December 1916, the Winnipeg Police Commission met and “female police officers were discussed” and it was “resolved that two women would be appointed”.
Mary E. Dunn, (Widow) 43 yrs, was appointed on 27th December 1916, at a salary of $75.00 per month.  She was listed on her equipment records as being 5’7”, 175 lbs.  She was issued keys to the Fire Alarm Boxes, Call Boxes, office door, and whistle #26.  She was also issued a copy of the Rules and Regulations, and a copy of the Juvenile Act and issued Badge # 368.  Duties were to care for ‘Wayward Children & Women in Distress”
Mary was born in the Ottawa area, and had met & married her husband William Henry Dunn, who was a builder.  Upon settling in Winnipeg, they resided at 759 Broadway at Maryland St, with their 12 children.  Mr. Dunn developed pneumonia, and died in August of 1913.  She raised her children, and 3 years later joined the Winnipeg Police Force at age 43.


Jane (Jenny) Isabel Andrews was appointed 4th January 1917, at the age of 44 years. She was issued Badge # 367, although she was later issued Badge # 286.  Jane was listed as 5’6½”, 164 lbs, and resided at 8-752 McDermot Av.  Born in Hantz County, NS, she would remain on the Force until pensioned on 30th April 1938.  She lived in apartments until 1924, when she is listed at 495 Rosedale Ave. The Henderson Directory does not list her in Winnipeg after retirement.  Born 8th Nov 1872, she died in 1952.


Mary Dunn resigned from police 15th April 1920, and married Joseph Guertin 19th April 1920.  There is speculation that she may have been encouraged to leave the Force, as she would no longer be single.  Joseph Guertin was a special agent for the Canadian National Railway, and was killed in an accident in the line of duty 12th November 1921 near Fort William (Dona) ON.  Mary died 29th January 1928.


Clara M. C. Donaldson was hired 12th April 1920, to replace Mary Dunn.  Records indicate that she was a widow, having been married to William M., and residing at 30 Cathedral Av.  Her occupation was listed as nurse.  In 1924 she was residing at 1 – 577 Sherbrook, until 1931 when she moved to 25 – 828 Preston Av, and then in 1935 she moved to 10 – 45 Carlton.   She retired on 1st July 1941, and remained on Carlton until 1945. 


Mary Dunn      The early years

Mary Ellen Halpin was born 29th June 1873 to M. Halpin & Margaret Mann.  She was baptized in Ottawa ON.   She met her husband William Henry Dunn, born in Ottawa on 18th October 1869.  They were married 1894 in Ottawa.  He had two brothers, George A. Dunn and Frederick Dunn, both of whom worked for the Government Bureau, Ottawa.  

William was a builder of houses, and the family went west, first to Oxbow, SK, before coming to Winnipeg.  In Winnipeg, Mr. Dunn began building house under the employ of Dunn & Wallace contractors, 254 Kingsway Av.  They raised their children in a house at 759 Broadway, at Maryland St.  This site is currently a paved school yard for Gordon Bell High School.

Back Row (l to r):  Mary Kathleen, Ethel, Beatrice, Louise
Middle row: Wilfred, Gerald, Edward, Norman, Vera
Front Row: Mary Dunn, w Shirley & Bill on lap, William Dunn, w/ Rita on lap

William was reportedly working on the Cornish Library, when he fell into the Assiniboine River.  He developed pneumonia and died 19th August 1913.  His eldest was Mary Kathleen (19yrs) and his youngest was 19 months.  Mary continued to raise the children on her own.

 

Mary Dunn      The police years

Mary was a widow during her career on the Winnipeg Police Force.  She wore plain clothes, and did not leave the station, unless accompanied by a male constable.

 In reviewing arrest books and other files, there is little known about her work, other than leading up to the 1919 General Strike. 

All members were asked to resign from the Union, and to sign an Oath of Loyalty.    In all, 228 members were dismissed from the Force and only 23 remained.  Records show that Mary Dunn was one of those that signed. 

In the entry in the books of the Winnipeg Police Commission, it shows that a replacement was hired (Clare Donaldson), prior to Mary Dunn resigning.  It is believed that if someone could support her, she did not require the job.  With her declaration of impending nuptials, she may have been asked to resign.

 

Mary Dunn      The later years

Joseph Guertin is listed in 1917 as residing at 314 Broadway. 

Mary Dunn married Joseph Guertin on 19th April 1920, at St. Mary’s Cathedral.  He was listed as a Special Agent for the Canadian National Railway, having served time in Canadian Pacific Railway, and Provincial Police.  They continued to reside at 759 Broadway.

Mary’s eldest daughter, Mary Kathleen, born 1893, had met a young man, William Leo Sullivan of 313 Burnell St (the site is currently a vacant lot).  They were married at St.Mary’s Cathedral on 16th May 1917.  The union produced two children:

Margaret Noreen Armstrong (nee Sullivan),
born 12th April 1918, died 2nd March 2000.

Mary Louise MacElaney (nee Sullivan),
died 12 April 1992, in Washington DC

Joseph Guertin was killed in a rail accident in the line of duty near
Dona, ON, about 27 miles east of what is now Thunder Bay, ON.

Mary’s eldest, Mary Kathleen
died 4th March 1922. 

Mary Ellen Dunn was again a window, and now also caring for her two surviving grandchildren.

 

Mary Ellen Guertin continued with her family, leaning heavily on the church and preparing hers and other children for the church.  She died 29th January 1928 at the Misericordia Hospital, at age 54, leaving 11 children.

She was laid to rest on Wednesday 1st February 1928, at St. Mary’s Cemetery 520 Osborne 

It is interesting to note that she is buried with her second husband, Joseph Guertin.  Her first husband is directly to the north of her, and shares the plot with their oldest daughter, Mary Kathleen Sullivan. 

Close ups of the grave stones are below …

2016 marked the 100th Anniversary of Women in Winnipeg Police, and several activities were planned throughout the year, including a Wine and Cheese event at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights held on 25th October 2016.

The Great Grand-daughter of Mary Dunn …
Pauline Armstrong Pfaff was present, and shown with a photo of Mary Dunn,
Chief Danny Smyth, and Cst. Tammy Skrabek.



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