Barbara Mikulski becomes longest serving woman in Senate history

By Hilary Nachem on
January 5, 2011

Senator Barbara Mikulski is known amongst her colleagues as the "Dean" of Senate women. She was the first Democratic woman elected to the U.S. Senate in her own right – her groundbreaking campaign was our first, the inspiration for EMILY's List back in 1985. The EMILY's List community has stood with Sen. Mikulski for over two decades. She has fought for us time and time again -- and we've done the same for her, most recently supporting her successful reelection this past November.

And that reelection was another milestone for the senior Democratic senator from Maryland. As she stands on the Senate floor this afternoon, taking the oath of office for a fifth time, Sen. Mikulski is the longest serving woman in Senate history. In her landmark 24 years, she has championed the issues that impact our lives: affordable health care for all women, equality in public education, and building livable communities. We are all indebted to the work that she has done -- bringing forth hallmark legislation including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the women’s health amendment last year.

For a young woman like me, it can be hard to imagine some of the struggles Sen. Mikulski had to endure. Recently interviewed by CNN, she recalled having to alert leadership that she intended to wear trousers on the Senate floor –- a "seismographic event." She was shut out of the locker room, where her male colleagues were networking and brokering deals. She broke through all of this, and luckily for us, she continues to hold the door open for those coming in behind her. As she told CNN, Sen. Mikulski may have entered an atmosphere of "every man for himself" but has worked to encourage a mindset of "to each one, teach one" among her fellow women.

On behalf of the entire EMILY's List community, I offer this symbolic toast to Sen. Mikulski. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for us. And, to the women of my generation, remember her wise words: "when they asked me if I was having a tea, I said, No! It’s about the power."

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