Her name was Bertha, the wife of Mercedes Benz founder Karl Benz who took the experimental vehicle and travelled alone for over 100km.
While in South Africa the month of August is regarded as Women’s Month it is also the 130th anniversary of the first ever road trip by an engine-powered vehicle. And the driver was a woman.
Karl Benz built his first three-wheeled Patent Motorwagen in 1885 and by August 1888 he was building Version 3.0 of it.
The Patent Motorwagen
Benz was using finance mostly provided by his wife Bertha, who was daughter of the wealthy Ringer family of Pforzheim, southwestern Germany.
He still regarded the vehicle as experimental and had never driven it further than around the courtyard of his workshop.
But Bertha saw things differently. She thought to herself that if her husband’s invention was to gain the recognition it needed… it had to be out there, showing the world what he had achieved.
So, at 5am on the morning of 12 August 1888 she and her two young sons – and without telling Benz -pulled the Motorwagen out of the workshop and started it, and she climbed aboard and went to visit her family in Pforzheim, 106km away.
Bertha Ringer-Benz who is known for being the first person in history to drive an automobile over a long distance.
Along the way she had to stop every 20km or so to ask local farmers for water to refill the total-loss cooling system and once at an apothecary’s shop to buy out his entire stock of a plant alcohol-based stain remover called ligroin, which the Patentwagen used as fuel.
That ligroin is now known as ‘Benzine’ in her honour.
At one point the engine’s suction-operated inlet valve got stuck, and several times she had to clear a blocked fuel line with a hatpin; the story goes that she even used one of her garters to patch up the ignition system.
She was on the road for more than 16 hours, arriving at her parents’ home late in the evening and immediately sent a telegram to her husband to let him know where she was. His reaction can well be imagined, given that he had never driven more than a few hundred metres at a time.
And a couple of days later, she drove back again. Why not, she said, she’d already proved it could be done.
Government will continue to strengthen the fight against the scourge of women abuse.
Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni says one of the ways to fight the brutality meted out against women in our society is first to change how boys think so that when they become men they do not see “patriarchy” as something they should inherit.
She said it was “toxic masculinity” that was defining the patriarchal society we are living in and that changing it should begin with boys at a tender age.
She said most of the time the culprits were known to their victims and most of the victims were financially dependent on their abusers because of the issue of women being placed under the rung of the ladder of economic opportunities.
“We call upon men to not be silent bystanders,” the Premier said.
“If we change the mind-set and establish a different value system, a significant portion of the war against gender-based violence shall be won,” Mtsweni said.
She was addressing scores who had come to celebrate Women’s Month at the Kwaggafontein stadium on Saturday mid-day.
The whole month of August in South Africa commemorates the Thursday morning of 9 August 1956 when thousands of women marched to the Union Building to demand the end to pass laws.
A petition containing about 100 000 signatures was delivered to Apartheid officials by the female marchers.
Mtsweni said it worth celebrating that since the dawn of democracy in 1994 more women have been seen ascending to positions of power like herself who became the first female Premier of the province this year and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who became the first woman to lead the African Union.
She said since 1994 the number of women in Parliament has been seen increasing – from 27.7% in 1994 to 41.8% in 2014 and “it’s encouraging to note the importance that the ruling party attaches to gender parity”.
“Yes, there remains significant room for growth,” she said.
“We urge local government to follow this trend and ensure that more women are appointed to strategic roles. It is unacceptable that 24 years after the advent of democracy that women constitute 24% of managers appointments to municipalities,” said Mtsweni.
The theme is: “100 Years of Albertina Sisulu… Woman of Fortitude. Women United In Moving South Africa Forward”.
The Women’s Month celebration at the Kwaggafontein stadium this Saturday will begin with a Healthy Walk before Premier Refilwe Mtsweni addresses the gathering.
She will lead the walk together with arts and culture MEC Thandi Shongwe and Kwaggafontein mayor Nomsa Mtsweni.
Mstweni’s keynote address is expected to touch on the issue of gender-based violence and ways to fight the scourge.
She will also highlight ways of bringing about women economic empowerment in the province as well as promoting a healthy lifestyle.
The theme is ‘100 Years of Albertina Sisulu: Woman of Fortitude. Women United In Moving South Africa Forward’.
Arts and culture spokeswoman Sibongile Nkosi said later Refilwe, Nomsa, Shongwe and other MECs will hand over “social relief items”, which will include furnished houses.
“Our aim as a government is to impact the lives of women from all walks of life through a variety of programmes,” Nkosi said.
“It will not only commemorate, celebrate and connect women with the stories of their past but will also open up opportunities for a better future, advancing their course towards socio-economic empowerment,” she said.
The platform will be used to condemn the recent spate of violence against women, Nkosi added.
“The Premier will deliver a keynote address, while Zahara, Bathabile and local artists will provide entertainment,” she said.
The first one was opened in Lydenburg and another one in Nhlazatshe.
The Youth Chamber of Commerce & Industries South Africa in collaboration with the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency and the National Youth Development Agency are on a mission to assist young entrepreneurs start their own Galitos restaurants.
The YCCISA and other stakeholders will be in Middelburg this coming Friday (10 Aug) for the opening of a new Galitos restaurant belonging to a female beneficiary that YCCISA assisted.
The restaurant that will be launched on Friday is the third as the other two were opened a few months ago.
“The first restaurant was launched in Lydenburg, while the second one was launched in Nhlazatshe,” YCCISA President Victor Mashego said.
“So we decided to launch this one on a Women’s Month because here the beneficiary is a woman,” said Mashego.
He said they plan to open eight more restaurants “of this nature”.
It costs them R500 000 to open each restaurant, Mashego said.
The project will create more than 77 sustainable jobs.
Each restaurant will have 7 employees, while other job opportunities will be created through the project’s value chain.
Mashego thanked the Galitos company for agreeing to partner with them to make the projects a success as well as economic development MEC Eric Kholwane and MEGA chief executive officer Xola Sithole who assisted so much.
“The new owners will undergo training and mentorship from relevant professionals. I am also happy that the University of Mpumalanga is willing to work with us on other issues as far as this project is concern,” he said.
YCCISA have negotiated for the entire value chain, egg-layers, incubators,1 day chicken breeding and abattoir.
“This is our rural and township economy revitalisation strategy,” he said, adding 60% of the 11 beneficiaries are young women.
Women of power, women of positive influence and women of class whose lives have a meaning, from all corners of South Africa descended to eMalahleni to commemorate Women’s Month.
These gracefully refined and dignified women who were elegantly dressed in peach and who commemorated Women’s Month through prayer, singing and motivational speeches, congregated under the theme “ladies are the epitome of beauty, wisdom and strength.”
A moving prayer by pastor Mary Mathibela lifted weary spirits and brought everyone closer to God.
She pleaded with God to bless people of eMalahleni and South Africa.
eMalahleni mayor Lindiwe Ntshalintshali said it was women who actually won the August 1956 Pass struggle.
“Men were already defeated with the introduction of pass laws, but women took up that struggle,” she said.
“And with their babies strapped on their back they marched to Pretoria,” Ntshalintshali said.
“As part of commemorating this year’s national women’s month we should be reaching out to all women in society, and fight the violence against women and children,” she said.