Cäcilie Bertha Benz | Entrepreneur, Inventor
* 3 May 1849 in Pforzheim as Cäcilie Bertha Ringer | + 5 May 1944 in Ladenburg
“Unfortunately, just another girl”, read a young Bertha Benz by accident in her father’s journal. Deeply hurt, the incident sparked a lifelong mission to make up for the mistake of having supposedly been born the wrong sex.
Bertha was born in 1849, a time when women were denied access to higher education. At an early age, she developed an interest in technical subjects and grew into a clever and ambitious woman. A headstrong one too. At twenty, Bertha fell in love with a penniless Carl Benz. She was fascinated by the inventor and his vision of a horseless carriage. Despite her father’s objections, Bertha invested her entire dowry in helping Benz’s company grow before she and Carl were married.
The early years were challenging for the Benz company. While Carl impressed through his design genius, his sales skills were non-existent. Hunger, hardship and ridicule became all too familiar for the family.
But Bertha wanted to prove to the world just what the automobile was capable of, so she undertook a daring and risky venture: the world’s first ever long-distance automobile journey. Without telling her husband, she and her two sons rattled along for over 100 kilometres in the vehicle with finger-thin wheel spokes and no roof. At that time the journey was not just a technical gamble, but for Bertha as a woman it was also a social one. Brave, clever and pragmatic, Bertha faced every obstacle she encountered head on. Since the trip garnered unparalleled public attention, it contributed significantly to the economic success of the company.
There came a time when Berta made an enormous mistake though. When Hitler arrived on the political scene, she welcomed him as the saviour of the Germans. The Benz family were quickly taken in by Nazi propaganda and let themselves be instrumentalised by the regime. It was only when she understood where Hitler’s policies were leading that she pulled back and regretted her error of judgment. Here too, she demonstrated strength in owning up to her mistakes and going against the majority.
Bertha Benz was a courageous and liberated woman with an abundance of entrepreneurial spirit. She believed in the vision of the automobile, but above all she believed in herself.