Longest Serving Woman
in the U. S. Congress
Barbara Mikulski (1936 – Present)
Barbara Mikulski is the Senior Senator from Maryland representing the Democratic Party. Starting her career as a social worker, In Congress Mikulski has championed such efforts as equal pay, a woman’s right to choose, improving health care for and medical research on women, and subsidizing child-care for low-income families.
Mikulski earned a master’s of social work degree from the University of Maryland in 1965 and returned to her hometown of Baltimore to work with at-risk children and educate seniors about Medicare. Her work soon evolved into community activism when she successfully organized communities against a plan to build a 16-lane highway through the heart of Baltimore.
Mikulski used her community activism momentum to win her first election to the Baltimore City Council in 1971. After serving Baltimore for five years, Mikulski won her first Congressional campaign in 1976, representing Maryland’s 3rd district for the next 10 years. In 1986, Mikulski ran for Senate and won, becoming the first Democratic woman Senator elected in her own right. She was re-elected with large majorities in 1992, 1998, 2004 and 2010.
A leader in the Senate, Mikulski is the Dean of the Women – serving as a mentor to other women Senators and working to form bipartisan coalitions. On January 5, 2011, Mikulski became the longest serving woman Senator in U.S. history and on March 17, 2012 she became the longest-serving woman in the history of the United States Congress. Of these milestones, she says, “It’s not about how long I serve, but about how well I serve my state and my nation.”
In November 2015, Mikulski received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama. Senator Barbara Mikulski will retire after finishing her fifth Senate term in December 2016.
Did You Know…
- In 1965, Patsy Mink became the first woman of color and first Asian American woman elected to the U.S. Congress from Hawaii.
- In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress from New York.
- In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman Vice Presidential candidate of a major political party.