Bertha Benz at the Wheel of Progress

6 Aug
Bertha Benz

Bertha Benz

Hello Suffragette Kitty fans and welcome to the day we celebrate Frau Bertha Benz, the first person in world history to jump behind the wheel of a car and take off for a joy ride.

Well, it may not have been a “joy” ride so to say, as she had two teenage sons with her –  bickering nonstop no doubt – and their destination was her mother’s house.

So, we will change out the word “joy” for “historical.” Therefore, Frau Bertha Benz is the first human being –  not just woman – to drive a vehicle over a long distance.

The trip was not all about transportation, it was about money. Bertha was hoping that people would see a woman and children driving along in a gas-powered vehicle, realize that they too could drive a motor car, then insist upon having one. She was right. Her 66-mile road trip from Mannheim, Germany to Pforzheim, Germany, attracted buyers, which we now know, launched a successful automobile industry. Here’s her story.

Bertha was the wife and business partner of Karl Benz, later of Mercedes-Benz fame. In 1871, when she was just Bertha Ringer, his doe-eyed fiance, she invested in his dream to create the first patented fuel-powered vehicle. The minute she went from Fraulein Ringer to Frau Benz, laws prohibited her from conducting business of any kind. Turned out she’d be busy raising five children anyway. Despite that, she kept an eye on her husband’s affairs, which we hope were focused solely on building a better automobile.

On Aug. 5, 1888, Bertha sneaked her two oldest children, Eugen, 15, and Richard, 13 into the Patent Motorwagen No. 3, and began the trek from Mannheim to Pforzheim. She did not get permission from her husband, nor any authority. She just jumped in the car and set off to prove that once the average person saw the Patent Motorwagen No. 3 zip past, they would want one. Then her husband’s years of tinkering would pay off.

 

Here are a few factoids about Bertha’s trip:

 

  • In 2008, the Bertha Benz Memorial Route  was officially approved as a route of the industrial heritage of mankind. It follows Bertha Benz’s 194-km (66-mile) route  from Mannheim via Heidelberg to Pforzheim and back.

    The Motorwagen No. 3.

    The Patent Motorwagen No. 3.

  • If you’re in the area, you can drive this tourist attraction, which takes you through the Black Forest.

  • Naturally, there were no gas stations, plus the PM3 ran on Ligroin, a petroleum ether, which was only available at chemist shops. Bertha knew when to locate a chemist and purchase more fuel.

  • Bertha used a hairpin to clear out a fuel line.

  • With two teenagers on board, Bertha is also the first person in world history to screech the phrase: “Don’t make me have to pull this car over!” (or whatever the German equivalent is.)

  • On May 3,1944, Bertha’s 95th birthday, she was honored with the title Honourable Senator, by the Technical University of Karlsruhe, her husband’s alma mater.

  • Bertha died two days later.

  • Now we just have to get our Saudi sisters behind the wheel.

We hope you enjoyed learning about Bertha Benz.

 

xo, Louisa May Alcatt

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One Response to “Bertha Benz at the Wheel of Progress”

  1. Carol Jamison August 6, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    Another great and admirable woman, about whom we now know more, thanks to you, Ms. Alcatt!

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