Barbara Mikulski, Democratic senator from Maryland, will be honored on Wednesday for her service in government by her fellow politicos and well-wishers. Her amazing career has made her beloved not only among women politicians, but by public servants and the public in general. Her outstanding achievement, which is the focus of Wednesday’s celebration, is that she is the longest-serving woman in the history of the congress.
The list of Mikulski’s other groundbreaking achievements is long and honorable, including:
• The first woman elected to the Senate who did not have either a husband or father who had served before her.
• The first woman elected in a statewide election in Maryland.
• The first woman to be the chairperson of an appropriations subcommittee.
In 2011 Mikulski overtook Maine’s Republican Senator Margaret Chase as the longest-serving women in Senate history. This past March 17 Senator Mikulski became the longest-serving woman in congressional history.
Thirty Six Years of Service
Mikulski is 75 years old, and was elected to the House in 1976 when she was only 39 years old. Ten years later she was elected to the Senate, the first time a woman held that office without having any male relatives there before her.
"She is a champion for every woman coming behind her. We all owe her a debt of gratitude," said Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., who has followed Mikulski's path to Senate leadership and is also an appropriator.
Says It Like It Is
Although Mikulski has been called the “meanest” Senator, there is no question that she commands respect, and is the unquestioned leader of the other 17 women serving today in the Senate.
She has always been a fierce advocate of women’s rights, and has done an enormous amount to help women get leadership roles in government.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat from California, remembers “the Year of the Woman,” so called because that election year saw four new female faces elected to Congress.
"When we were running back in 1992, Barbara Mikulski was on the phone with us, 'What can I do to help?' When we got here, she helped in any way. She is so totally supportive of women," Feinstein said. "It's very special to see someone like this reach this apex."
Seeking Parity, Not Special Treatment
Yet Mikulski was uncomfortable with the idea that having women in government is some kind of special treatment. She sees the phenomenon as not a “phenomenon” at all; it is just plain fairness, justice and the way our country needs to be run. This is what Barbara Mikulski had to say about the idea of the “Year of the Woman:”
"Calling 1992 the Year of the Woman makes it sound like the Year of the Caribou or the Year of the Asparagus. We're not a fad, a fancy, or a year."
Mikulski will be honored with speeches from the Senate floor on Wednesday. Later the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, will host a reception for Women’s History Month, honoring Miklulski.