The year was 1888


In 1871, Berthe Ringer, 22, was so impressed with her fiancé Karl’s business that she invested her own money and became a partner. A year later, when she married Karl, she lost her status – a wife could not legally own or invest in a business in Germany. Still, Berthe worked side-by-side with Karl for years.

Karl Benz
Karl Benz

In 1888, Bertha thought her husband was too timid. She wanted to prove that autos could be used to get to places far away. Without telling Karl – and without legal permission – Bertha took two of their five children, Richard, 14, and Eugen, 16 and got in one of their cars to go for a drive. A long one. This was a rather tricky thing, because the car ran on a fuel that could only be bought in drugstores.

Berthe and her sons left their home in Mannheim at dawn. Besides getting fuel, stops included a break to the keep the brakes from overheating (on the spot, Berthe invented brake linings!) and to use her hatpin to unclog a fuel line. After dark, 66 miles later, Berthe and her sons arrived at her mother’s home in Pforzheim. The next morning, they made the return drive back to Mannheim. In addition to brake linings, Berthe suggested to Karl that they needed to add another gear to their cars, for climbing hills.

The amazing trip got tons of attention. Berthe, the first long distance automobile driver, single-handedly changed the auto industry.  Her married name?  Benz.  In 1906, Karl changed the company name from Benz to Benz and Sons.mercedes-benz-logo-history-1


One Comment Add yours

  1. Rose Kleidon says:

    Just in case readers think equal rights for women happened in the U.S. in 1920 with the vote, please know that it took another 60 years for laws to be struck down piecemeal, and even now the Equal Rights Amendment is not ratified. (It is three states short.) Ruth Bader Ginsberg says this is the most important amendment we could pass.

    In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court said “the institution of coverture is … obsolete” even while acknowledging [its] existence in 1–11 states. Justice Hugo Black …[called coverture] the “fiction that the husband and wife are one… in reality … the one is the husband…. Black described modern coverture as an “archaic remnant of a primitive caste system.”

    In 1979, Louisiana became the last of the states of the U.S. to have its Head and Master law struck down. An appeal made it to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1980, and in the following year the high court…effectively declared the practice of male-rule in marriage unconstitutional.

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