Is Bertha Ringer getting a free ride into the Automotive Hall of Fame simply because she married the genius Karl Benz 144 years ago?
Not at all. Bertha Benz earned her place in the Hall with one outrageous act of courage, vision and ingenuity.
Indeed, without this German hausfrau, who knows what course the development of the automobile industry might have taken. Not only did she use her dowry to finance Karl's horseless carriage venture, she taught her husband -- an engineering mastermind but clueless marketer -- how to popularize his invention.
In 1888, at age 39, Bertha and her two teenage sons climbed aboard one of the two Patent-Motorwagen vehicles her husband had assembled and set off on a 66-mile romp from Mannheim to Pforzheim. She didn't bother to tell Karl, though she did leave him a note on the kitchen table
She said she needed the car to visit her mother -- fairly commonplace, you'd think, except for one teensy fact. No one in history had ever gone on a car trip before. Her real motive was to demonstrate to her overcautious spouse that his Motorwagen, the first of which he had built two years before, was ready for prime time.
It was as if the wife of Wilbur or Orville Wright had slipped out of the hut at Kitty Hawk one morning in 1903, climbed into that first aeroplane and flown down the beach without telling the brothers.