U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland is the longest-serving woman in U.S. congressional history, and Dr. Libby O'Connell spoke with her during Women's History Month for Bio.com.
Senator Mikulski began her career as a social worker, stating she wanted "to help people be able to help themselves ... taking day-to-day needs and what they're facing and see what that means in terms of public policy." These skills naturally progressed into her role as a senator because "social work in the Senate is social work with power," she said.
When she took her Senate seat in 1987, Mikulski was one of two female senators until 1992. When more women came to Washington, D.C., Mikulski developed workshops and a mentor network to share tips on how to be a good senator. People would ask if she was going to set up a tea for the women of the Senate, to which she replied, "No, it's a power workshop; just watch us." She mentored other females about committee assignments, how to meet the needs of their constituents and, most importantly, how to make sure the seemingly small problems from home would never get lost in big government.
Mikulski also celebrates her male colleagues in the Senate: "The great Senator Bob Byrd taught me about the constitution and separation of power," she said. "Ted Kennedy [taught me] about how you can take good intentions and turn them into good legislation. And Senator Paul Sarbanes taught me the formal ... and the informal channels of power."
Mikulski's office is decorated with furniture from her childhood home. Her mother's dining room table sits in the center of the room because it helps her "remember not only the macro issues, but also the macaroni and cheese issues." She finds it important to "think about the issues that are at the kitchen table so that when we're at the senate committee table, we remember who we are and where we came from and who we should be thinking about."
In honor of Women's History Month, Senator Barbara Mikulski shares her wisdom on Washington and empowers not only women in politics but also women of the global community. Watch our exclusive interview with her.