Revolutionall women – Bertha Benz

As you get into your car today may I suggest you cast your eyes to the sky and give thanks to a woman who was instrumental in changing the motoring world, Bertha Benz.

We all know that Karl Benz, Bertha’s husband, built one of the first cars in 1885. What is less well known is that Bertha was a bit of a minx. One day, in 1888, she took Karl’s new invention and went on the first long distance journey with it. She scooped up her two sons and undertook a journey without the permission of her husband or the authorities from Mannheim to Pforzheim, a trip of 106km. in those days journeys were very short and accompanied by mechanics and wagons to ensure safety and a smooth journey.


Although the ostensible purpose of the trip was to visit her mother, Bertha Benz had other motives: to prove to her husband, who had failed to consider marketing his invention adequately, that the automobile they both heavily invested in would become a financial success once it was shown to be useful to the general public; and to give her husband the confidence that his constructions had a future. Men, eh?

On the journey Bertha had to improvise some brakes from leather when the wooden ones wore out and she had to clean out the fuel lines with a hair pin because they became blocked. The boys had to help their mother get the car up hills by pushing, as the two gears were insufficient. Bertha arrived at nightfall and telegrammed Karl to let him know she (and the car) were safe. Bertha stayed away a few days until the heat died down at home.


Karl Benz’s three-wheeled car was powered by a single-cylinder and 2.5 horsepower internal combustion, four-stroke engine, and could reach a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour (40 km/h). Mrs Bertha Benz was considerably more racy.