A painted illustration of Bertha Benz and her two sons on her historical drive.   -  Photo: Mercedes-Benz Group

A painted illustration of Bertha Benz and her two sons on her historical drive. 

Photo: Mercedes-Benz Group

Bertha Benz, born Cäcilie Bertha Ringer on May 3, 1849, played a significant role in the development of the automobile. She supported her husband, Carl Benz, and shared his belief in the future of the automobile. 

Bertha was ambitious, curious, technologically innovative, and had a keen mind. She met Carl Benz on June 27, 1869, during an excursion organized by the social club “Eintracht’.”

They married on July 20, 1872, and made big plans together. With determination and talent, Bertha helped Carl realize his vision of an engine-powered horseless carriage. She provided technical assistance, contributed her ideas, and helped him in practical ways, such as winding wire induction coils for the ignition mechanism. Truly one of the first women automotive pioneers.

On New Year’s Eve in 1879, the couple succeeded in making the two-stroke engine work.

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During the economically precarious early years, Bertha used her dowry to save Carl’s business even before marriage. Later, she repeatedly spoke out against doubters. 

On January 29, 1886, Carl filed a patent application for his “motor car with gas engine operation.” However, the general public and Carl’s contemporaries were deeply skeptical about this new means of transport. 

Pioneer of the automobile: Bertha Benz, here a portrait of her as a young woman, helped pave the way for the spread of motorized vehicles.  -  Photo: Mercedes-Benz Group

Pioneer of the automobile: Bertha Benz, here a portrait of her as a young woman, helped pave the way for the spread of motorized vehicles.

Photo: Mercedes-Benz Group

This narrow-mindedness led Bertha to make a momentous decision in August 1888.

She reportedly could not stand by and watch as her husband suffered from the negative stance of the public. So, without his knowledge, she set out with his motor car and her two sons, Eugen and Richard, toward Pforzheim. The three arrived after over 12 hours of driving over 100 kilometers on mostly unpaved roads. 

The circumstances of this world’s first long-distance journey in an automobile are legendary and have gone down in the annals of automotive history. Bertha Benz and her sons played a vital part in the subsequent triumphant advance of the petrol-powered automobile.

Bertha died in Ladenburg on May 5, 1944, two days after her 95th birthday.

About the author
Lauren Fletcher

Lauren Fletcher

Executive Editor - Fleet, Trucking & Transportation

Lauren Fletcher is Executive Editor for the Fleet, Trucking & Transportation Group. She has covered the truck fleet industry since 2006. Her bright personality helps lead the team's content strategy and focuses on growth, education, and motivation.

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