This obscure London memorial is filled with heart-wrenching tales of everyday heroism.

Tucked away in a small park in London is a wall of plaques dedicated to acts of everyday heroism.

In Postman's Park, nestled among Japanese musa basjoos and dove trees, is a gallery with many small tiles lining a 50-foot brick wall.

It's called the Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice, and the 54 plaques each commemorate the brave acts of men, women, and children who perished trying to save others' lives.


Victorian sculptor George Frederic Watts first proposed the idea for the memorial in a letter to The Times for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887.

"The character of a nation as a people of great deeds is one, it appears to me, that should never be lost sight of," Watts wrote in his letter.

George Frederic Watts. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

According to the Everyday Heroes of Postmans' Park, Watts combed through newspapers for decades searching for small stories about ordinary people who sacrificed their own lives to save others.

Plaques are displayed along a memorial wall in Postman's Park. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

Eventually, the wall came to life in 1900 in a stunning and emotional display of selfless acts.

A general view of Postman's Park. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

The memorial was designed to be as simple as possible so as not to detract from the great deeds recorded upon it.

The austere wooden gallery was designed by Sir Ernest George.

And some of the beautiful blue-and-white tile plaques were designed by famed tile designer William de Morgan.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

In his letter, Watts said he was partly inspired by the story of Alice Ayres, who saved three children's lives by pushing a feather bed out a second floor window of a home that was on fire and tossing the children to safety. Tragically, she fell during her escape and died at the hospital.

Ayres' story became the first plaque of the memorial.

The ages of those memorialized range from 8 to 61 years old.

Henry Bristow, the youngest person on wall, died saving his sister’s life from a fire in 1890.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

And each story is astonishing.

Like Mary Rogers, a stewardess who gave up her life belt to save another person when her ship, the Stella, sank.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

In 1884, Samuel Rabbeth, a doctor, willingly risked his life to try and save a child from diphtheria. Ultimately, he succumbed to the disease along with the boy.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

In total, the wall commemorates 61 lives lost during the Victorian era.

They are a humbling reminder of the risks, perils, and dangers society faces everyday and the people who bravely step up to protect others.

We need these shining examples of selflessness, heroism, and self-sacrifice to remind us of the humanity in the world.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

Watts wrote in his 1887 letter that "the material prosperity of a nation is not an abiding possession; the deeds of its people are."

After Watts death in 1904, his wife Mary continued the project until 1929 when interest in the memorial subsided.

A new plaque was installed in 2009, though, to honor Leigh Pitt, a man who drowned in 2007 while saving 9-year-old Harley Bagnall-Taylor in Gallions Lake.

It was the first plaque to be added in over 80 years.

Though society, culture, and technology has changed significantly since Watts proposed the idea for this memorial 129 years ago, the need for shining examples of everyday heroism has not.

In recent years, there has been no shortage of heroic deeds performed by the average person across the globe. We are constantly reminded through the news, our Facebook feeds, and through Twitter that people are sacrificing their lives to help others.

But where is their memorial?

Who do you know who deserves to be memorialized in a public monument for the sacrifice to save innocent lives?

True

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!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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