It was the plucky Bertha Benz herself who took hold of the steering lever of the Patent Motor Car. She reasoned that the only way to convince the general public of the everyday practicality of the motor car was to prove it to them in practice.
In the early hours of the morning and without the knowledge of her husband, in August 1888 Bertha Benz set off in Karl’s three-wheeler with the couple’s two sons, Eugen and Richard, on the journey from Mannheim to Pforzheim.
As darkness fell, the intrepid trio arrived safely at their destination. They then sent Karl a telegram to tell him that they had successfully completed the first long-distance journey in his motor car. News of this sensational event spread like wildfire. Two boys and a woman in a hissing, snarling horseless carriage? It had to be the work of the devil. Yet Bertha Benz had achieved what she had set out to do. The critics were at least won over by the reliability of the Benz Patent Motor Car. Without the courage and commitment of Bertha Benz, the road to automobile success would have been significantly more rocky.
Karl Benz later wrote in his memoirs, "Only one person stood by me during those times when I was heading towards the abyss. That was my wife. It was her courage that enabled me to find new hope."
She passed away on 5 May 1944, two days after celebrating her 95th birthday, in Ladenburg in the state of Baden, where the family finally settled.