You’ve heard the mantra that behind every successful man there is a great woman. Well, you certainly can’t argue its truth when it comes to Carl Benz.
Carl’s wife Bertha, the first female automotive pioneer in history, is finally getting the recognition she deserves for her role in helping her husband get Mercedes-Benz off the ground.
Bertha Benz was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Detroit on Thursday, 32 years after her husband Carl’s induction in 1984. While Carl is considered a genius for his skilled mechanic work, not many are aware of the huge role Bertha played in his success as his business partner. She not only played a significant role in filing the first patent for the automobile in 1886, she also supported Carl’s efforts from day one and invested her inheritance money in his invention.
Bertha also did a lot more than than write checks, so to speak. She showed her husband his invention would indeed work.
She did it by making the first long-distance drive in history, in secret, with two of her kids, in 1888. Carl still didn’t believe his car could yet cover long distances, but Bertha did. So she took a chance and drove 60 miles to see her mom without telling her husband.
Her pioneering trip proved her husband’s car was ready for daily use. It boosted sales and marketing efforts in making the Benz patent motor car a success on the market.
“We are thrilled to honor Bertha Benz for her entrepreneurial spirit that played a vital role in creating what is today’s global automotive industry,” said William R. Chapin, Automotive Hall of Fame president. “With Bertha Benz’s induction tonight, this marks the first time that a husband-and-wife team have both been inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, which is truly extraordinary.”
The couple’s great-granddaughter attended the induction ceremony.
“As the role of a wife was in the late 1800s, she also had to take care of the family, raise five children, do all the housekeeping, cooking etc. Thus, it was as twice as much she accomplished compared to a man,” said Jutta Benz, great-granddaughter of Bertha and Carl Benz. “So if I may say so, it’s about time that Bertha Benz becomes inducted to the hall of fame – 32 years after Carl and 130 years after her achievements. For me personally it is of great satisfaction that my great grandmother is being honored now.”
According to her great-granddaughter, Bertha did more than just drive the car on that secret road trip. She fixed it, more than once. She stopped to buy a cleaning fluid to keep the car running. She had a shoemaker repair the leather on a brake shoe. She used the pin on her hat to clean a clogged fuel line. She even used her garter as an insulator to fix an ignition wire problem.
Mercedes-Benz says that secret drive helped her husband improve the car. So essentially you can call her the first quality manager of the automobile industry.
“In the years to follow and with new products developed, Benz & Company became the leading manufacturer of automobiles worldwide around the turn of century, said Christian Boucke, head of Mercedes-Benz Classic. “We are very proud that Bertha Benz is now in the Automotive Hall of Fame together with her husband Carl – she really deserves it!”
We think so, too.