She stunt-doubled for Lucille Ball and Bette Davis. But you probably haven't heard of her.

Jeannie Epper is a stuntwoman extraordinaire.

She doubled for Lynda Carter in the 1970s TV show "Wonder Woman," she slid down a 200-foot mudslide in "Romancing the Stone," and she jumped through a plate-glass window at 66 years old.

It’s easy to see why she’s one of Hollywood’s most famous stuntwomen, but where did she learn the tricks of her trade?


According to Epper, it all goes back to Polly Burson, the “Queen of Western Stuntwomen.”

Burson doubled for some of cinema’s biggest stars in an era when men had a monopoly on stunt work.

Born in 1919 in Oregon, Burson was a real-life cowgirl who performed trick riding stunts for audiences across the world, often appearing alongside Western celebrities like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. But eventually, she packed her saddlebags and headed to Hollywood. As she put it, “After rodeoing, stunt work seemed like whipped cream.”

Gif from "True Grit."

But becoming a stuntwoman in the 1940s was easier said than done.

The industry was an “old boys’ network,” and usually, men would don skirts and wigs to double for leading ladies, stealing jobs from their female counterparts.

Couple that with a major wage gap, and you can see why Hollywood stuntwomen were few and far between.

But Burson didn’t back down, and in 1945, she got a job on a serial called "The Purple Monster Strikes."

Playing a villainous Martian, Burson took a dive off a 75-foot cliff, reportedly earning $150 for the fall.

Her next big stunt was for "The Perils of Pauline." Doubling for comedian Betty Hutton, Burson rode a galloping horse next to a speeding locomotive, grabbed onto a boxcar ladder, and pulled herself aboard. She actually had to perform the stunt three times because the director was having so much fun shooting the scene.

Gif from "Perils of Pauline."

Soon, Burson was one of the biggest stuntwomen in the business, doubling for stars like Doris Day, Lucille Ball, Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, and Sophia Loren.

‌GIF from "Creature from the Black Lagoon."‌

Burson also appeared in some of Hollywood’s greatest films. She made a 60-foot fall from a tower in "Vertigo," she was dragged into the depths in "Creature from the Black Lagoon," and she showed off her riding skills in "True Grit." Occasionally, Burson also doubled for men, like the time she played a Native American horseman in "Pillars of the Sky."

Then, in 1951, Burson became the first female stunt coordinator (aka “ramrod”) for a Hollywood film.

‌GIF from "Westward the Women."‌

On a picture called "Westward the Women," Burson was in charge of all the stunts involving the female crew. While she didn’t have complete control over the movie, this was still a huge step in the right direction. 16 years later, Burson would become a charter member of the Stuntwomen’s Association of Motion Pictures, the first organization to support and champion female stunt doubles.

Despite her success, Burson still faced sexism on the job.

In 1963, John Wayne was starring in a Western-comedy called "McLintock!" In one scene, two female characters were supposed to tumble down a flight of stairs. Even though Burson was working on the movie, Wayne was worried she might get hurt so he used stuntmen dressed as women instead.

‌GIF from "McLintock!

While he meant well, Burson didn’t need to be patronized. She’d taken more risks than any A-list actor, and as she put it, she would keep putting her life on the line until her body told her to quit.

Unfortunately, Burson's career essentially came to an end while filming 1974’s "Earthquake," a disaster movie with some insanely dangerous set pieces.

For one stunt, Burson was hit with 3,000 gallons of water. As a result, she broke a leg and several bones in her face. Even worse, Burson later learned the scene was just a trial run for the special effects. According to author Mollie Gregory, nobody had actually been filming.

After "Earthquake," Burson decided it was “time to quit the business.” While she appeared in a few more films, she spent most of her time organizing horse races for female jockeys, appearing at rodeos, and at one point, sailing from Hawaii to New Zealand on her own schooner.

But while she was no longer part of the Hollywood scene, people still remember her amazing contributions to women on the silver screen.

‌GIF from "Vertigo."‌

In addition to winning the Golden Boot Award from the Motion Pictures & Television Fund, she was also inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, and the Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame.

On April 4, 2006, Polly Burson passed away at the age of 86.

She left behind an impressive collection of jumps, falls, and fistfights, preserved in films like "The Ten Commandments," "Spartacus," and "Some Like It Hot."

Burson also made an incredible impact on the Hollywood system.

She inspired a new generation of stuntwomen and paved the way for future behind-the-scenes stars. For that, we can all be thankful.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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