Phoebe Hessel was a British soldier and local legend who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Raised in Stepney, London, Hessel fell in love with a soldier named Samuel Golding when she was 15 years old and disguised herself as a man so that she could join the army to accompany him. She became a member of the 5th Regiment of Foot with Golding and served in the West Indies and Gibraltar. The two remained together in the British army for 17 years.
In 1745 she fought against the French in the Battle of Fontenoy where she received a bayonet wound to the arm. Eventually she revealed herself as a woman, although accounts vary as to whether this occurred when she was stripped to be whipped as a punishment, or if she did so voluntarily in order to stay with Golding when he was wounded. She was not disciplined for her deception and was paid the same amount as any soldier leaving the army.
She and Golding remained married for twenty years in Plymouth until his death, after which she remarried and moved to Brighton, where she became a well-known local figure and traveling saleswoman. She died in 1821 at the impressive age of 108. In her native Stepney both Hessel Street and Amazon Street are named after her, the latter due to her nickname as the ‘Stepney Amazon’.