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Longtime U.S. senator has made ‘herstory'

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., speaks to the Democratic National Convention at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, Aug. 14, 2000. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip

WASHINGTON – Barbara Mikulski’s career has been defined by firsts.

The Democrat from Maryland was elected to the U.S. House of Representitves in 1976 and, 10 years later, became the first woman elected to the Senate who had not had a father or husband serve before her.

In 2011, she passed former Maine GOP senator Margaret Chase Smith as the longest-serving woman in Senate history. Last week, she became the longest-serving female in Congress overall – more than 12,800 days.

Mikulski, whose family ran a grocery in Baltimore, said she was called to a life of service, in part, because of her Catholic education. She briefly considered becoming a nun.

“That vow of obedience kind of slowed me down a little bit,” she said.

Now 75, Mikulski is praised by Republicans and Democrats alike for her legislative savvy, commitment to women’s issues, and her role as the informal mentor to all women who have been elected.

“She has shown us how to stand up and fight, and she has taken all of us under her wing,” said Patty Murray, (D-Wash.).

“People are sometimes afraid of her when she gets mad,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, (D-N.Y.). “But mostly, people seek her advice.”

Gannett News Service