[Merecdes Benz describes the historic moment in these words 'Legendary role as the first person to take long-distance automotive road trip' and with the above photograph.]
Bertha Ringer, better known today as Bertha Benz, was the first woman in history to drive an automobile over a long distance.
Bertha’s husband, Karl Benz, is the maker of the first car which runs on a fuel-burning engine and the founder of Mercedes Benz along with German engineer Gottlieb Daimler.
In 1888, the German national set a Guinness world record driving for 106 km.
Bertha’s story raises somewhat of an interesting debate. While it was men who designed, created and developed the car, none of them had ever driven it over a long distance before her.
Bertha invested her own fortune with her husband, a man who was driven to create a “self-propelled vehicle” in the 19th century, a period of ecclesiastical traditions. At the time, any carriage that was not pulled by a house was considered “the work of sorcery and witchcraft.”
Thus, in 1885 the vehicle, known as Benz Patent-Motorwagen, was hidden in his garage for a year. At the time, it cost him 600 Marks, or $150.
Karl only revealed his invention in the mid of 1886, after which he designed and created 25 other cars.
Interestingly, Bertha drove the car without Karl’s knowledge because he did not like to boast about his creations, in fear of the religious traditions.
Bertha making history
On August 5, 1888, Bertha opened the garage door at dawn while her husband was asleep, rode the car with her 15-year-old son Eugen and younger brother Richard. Bertha drove Mannheim city, her residence, to Pforzheim, where she was born. Today, the difference between the two cities is 90 km, compared to 106 km then.
According to some sites, Bertha spent three days with her family in Pforzheim, and upon her arrival, the car had gained publicity quickly – with many people calling it a miracle.
In a feature by journalist Fahd Aamer al-Ahmadi, Bertha, he says “was not only a courageous woman, but also very smart. She introduced to inventions during her trip. To increase the engine’s power, she stopped at a pharmacy and bought a fuel stimulating agent. Also, when she noticed the breaks were weak, she stopped at a blacksmith and asked to dress the clutch with horse leather to better curb the wheels.”
It is worthy of mentioning that women were not allowed to travel alone at time, which is why she took both her sons with her.
[The above article had been published by Al Arabiya in the context of Saudi Arabia's move to lift the ban on women driving car.]