Bertha Benz (née Ringer) was born on 3 May 1849 in Pforzheim, Germany.
She married inventor Karl Benz on 20 July 1872, and died 5 May 1944 in Ladenburg.
She invested in Benz's business in 1871, enabling him to develop the first patented automobile, and in 1888 she was the first person to drive an automobile over a long distance. In doing so she brought the Benz Patent-Motorwagen worldwide attention and got the company its first sales.
In 1871 she invested in the workshop of her fiancé, Carl Benz, making it possible to go on with a long and expensive developing process. As an unmarried woman she was able to do so. Later, when they married, however, according to the law in those days, Bertha lost her juridical power to act.
On July 20, 1872, Bertha Ringer married Carl Benz. Together they had five children: Eugen (1873), Richard (1874), Clara (1877), Thilde (1882), and Ellen (1890).
On August 5 1888, without telling her husband and without permission of the authorities, Benz drove with her sons Richard and Eugen, thirteen and fifteen years old, in one of the newly-constructed Patent Motorwagen automobiles—from Mannheim to Pforzheim—becoming the first person to drive an automobile over a real distance. Motorized drives before this historic trip were merely very short trial drives with mechanical assistants. This pioneering tour had a one-way distance of about 106 km (66 mi).
Although the ostensible purpose of the trip was to visit her mother, Bertha Benz had other motives: to prove 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.
On the way, she solved numerous problems. She had to find ligroin as a fuel, which was available only at apothecary shops so she stopped in Wiesloch at the city pharmacy to purchase the fuel. A blacksmith had to help mend a chain at one point. Brakes needed to be repaired, in doing so Bertha Benz invented brake lining. She also had to use a long, straight hairpin to clean a fuel pipe, which had become blocked, and to insulate a wire with a garter.
She left Mannheim around dawn and reached Pforzheim somewhat after dusk, notifying her husband of her successful journey by telegram. She drove back to Mannheim the next day.
Along the way, several people were frightened by the automobile and the novel trip received a great deal of publicity—as she had sought. The drive was a key event in the technical development of the automobile.
The pioneering couple was able to introduce several improvements after Bertha's experiences, she reported everything that had happened along the way—and made important suggestions, such as the introduction of an additional gear for climbing hills and brake linings to improve brake-power.
In 1944, on her ninety-fifth birthday, Bertha Benz was honoured with the title, Honourable Senator, by the Technical University of Karlsruhe. This is the alma mater of her husband and they had awarded an honorary doctorate degree to him in his lifetime.
Two days later Bertha Benz died in her villa in Ladenburg, where the workshop of Carl Benz was built after they had moved there in 1906 and he established a solely family-held business, Benz and Sons..
Carl & Bertha Benz - The Car is Born - Trailer