Friday, March 15, 2013

Women and Classic Cars Start in Germany

The first car driver is from Germany

I am not sure whether it is discovering my own German roots or simply that my brothers always tease me about my own driving - I really connected to this special story I want to share with you.

Women and Cars Date Back to the 1800s

I have seen many articles about Danica Patrick, NASCAR driverWho is the first woman driver?  I uncovered a fun story to share about the first woman driver – many years ago.  I chuckle as I write this because it may even be the first account of a stolen car too. 

I know almost everyone is familiar with how Mercedes-Benz started.  There is a hidden story that recently caught my eye.  Carl Benz invented the first patented car in 1886 (Reich Patent No. 37435, information from the southwest Germany tourism website). 

There are many questions that surround this invention during the early years because Carl would only travel short distances around town in the car.  However, Carl continued to tinker around with his invention for a couple of years.  And no one paid much attention to what he was doing.

Except one person. A woman who wanted to see her mother.

Bertha Benz - Courtesy of Daimler AG

It was Carl’s wife, Bertha, who was getting rather anxious and tired of how long Carl was taking with his darn invention. And, because she wanted to go somewhere – take a trip to visit her Mother – she started planning out her idea.  Bertha knew this trip idea would not be well received if she approached  her husband about it and he would never permit her to take one of the cars out for this distance.

So instead of asking in advance, Bertha sneaked out early one morning along with her two sons and took the car for the 60 mile round trip to visit her mother.  She made the 60 miles without complications. 

Can you imagine the look on Carl's face when he went to his shed that morning, opened the doors, and found his invention missing?

From Mannheim to Pforzheim in Southwest Germany

Remember the road conditions are not as we know today. Bertha probably traveled over a one-lane dirt road.  Where does one fill up with fuel?  

Bertha stopped at a pharmacy - the first known filling station - in Wiesloch to fill up the car about half way along the route – because she knew Carl used ligroin, a solvent-like petroleum only sold by pharmacists. 

The car Bertha actually chose to drive was a model 3 which Carl had designed with an extra seat and it had an extra place for her sons to sit.

This trip is the one that received attention from the public of Carl’s invention, the horseless carriage invention. Although Bertha did pre-plan the trip, I am not sure she thought about the results it would have in the future. 

Is Bertha a courageous woman?  I do think she is.  I also believe she went on the trip simply because she wanted to getaway to visit her relatives.  What do you think? 

1888 Model III Motorwagen Courtesy of Daimler AG

Remember not to fret about opinion differences between couples (and friends and family) as they may turn out to be million dollar ideas.  

Do you like this story?  Join in with our discussion about why cars started on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.  

Travel Tip:  We may follow this fun trip when visiting Germany and retrace the famous memorial route from Mannheim to Pforzheim in southwestern Germany

Hint:  Don't forget to visit the Carl Benz Museum just outside Mannheim.  

I am grateful to connect to ~ and thank you to my new friends at TourComm Germany on behalf of the State Tourist Board Baden-W├╝rttemberg for sharing much of this information which I assembled and used in this story! 

You may find additional information on the Bertha Benz website.

Women and Classic Cars ~ another fabulous story 
for Women's History ~ The Fun Tour Guru

We found some great German Hostels you may reserve on your own through our travel website, Lighthouse Travel and Tours.   Check it out now! 

C├Ącilie Bertha Benz (maiden name Ringer)
born on May 3, 1849 in Pforzheim,
deceased on May 5, 1944 in Ladenburg

Images courtesy of Daimler AG


  1. I love this story. A hidden gem!

  2. Thank you Susette! I agree with you. Imagine the look on Carl's face when he discovered his invention was missing?

  3. Nice to know about your story,its very interesting and its according to my interest,actually i am a mechanic by profession and your story is familiar with my profession.Nice work done on the blog,its very impressive.However if you want to know more about the cars so have a look on vin decoder chevrolet.

  4. Thank you Mike. It is great to dig deep and uncover some of these stories!


Thank you with your interest!