Longest-Serving Woman Senator Looks After The Rest Host Liane Hansen talks with Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who is the longest serving female senator in U.S. history. When Mikulski arrived in the Senate in 1986, there wasn't even a woman's bathroom. Since then, she has become the unofficial dean of the increasing number of women serving in the Senate.
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Longest-Serving Woman Senator Looks After The Rest

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Longest-Serving Woman Senator Looks After The Rest

Longest-Serving Woman Senator Looks After The Rest

Longest-Serving Woman Senator Looks After The Rest

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/133348416/133348429" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Host Liane Hansen talks with Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who is the longest serving female senator in U.S. history. When Mikulski arrived in the Senate in 1986, there wasn't even a woman's bathroom. Since then, she has become the unofficial dean of the increasing number of women serving in the Senate.

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

Senator Mikulski, thank you for inviting us to talk to you today in your office.

BARBARA MIKULSKI: Hi, Liane. As time has gone on, the office has gotten a little bit bigger, but the responsibilities have gotten very significant.

HANSEN: No doubt. What it was like, as a woman, to into walk into the Senate 25 years ago?

MIKULSKI: Well, first, it was an enormous thrill. And it was also very scary, because I felt it was not only Barb Mikulski that was coming into the Senate, but I was bringing half of the population with me. And I felt that if I didn't succeed that people would look down their nose at women succeeding, in truly a pretty big man's world.

HANSEN: Do you think being a woman at that time helped you politically, or hurt you in terms of getting things done? Because you were only one of a handful, so is the spotlight hotter on you?

MIKULSKI: So I went to work trying to work twice as hard to be twice good at being a legislator, in order to prove that we were up to the job and that I could really do the job.

HANSEN: Do you think with women running for public office today - as you said, there are 17 women senators - does it even bear mentioning now?

MIKULSKI: But while we work on the macro issues, we also bring the macaroni and cheese issues.

HANSEN: Every issue is a women's issue.

MIKULSKI: Well, that's what I said and that's all of, really, what the women say on both sides of the aisle. National security is a woman's issue. Fighting and dying for your country certainly is a family issue. You just ask those military families on multiple deployments, with the stress that they have to have. Balancing the budget - well, wow - that's a national issue and it's also a family issue. Because the way we balance our budget impacts the way the families will ultimately balance theirs.

HANSEN: What part of your personality, your political savvy can be traced right back to your Baltimore roots, do you think?

MIKULSKI: Well, I think I am who I am because of the wonderful mother and father I had, and the wonderful kind of schools that I went to. My mother and father owned a small neighborhood grocery store. And they believed that we - everyone who was our neighbor - was part of our extended family. And if they were having tough times, my father and mother tried to help them over that hump.

MIKULSKI: 5, "The Sermon on the Mount;" hunger and thirst after justice.

HANSEN: It is true you almost became a nun, but the discipline might have been too much?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MIKULSKI: No. Well, you know, everyone at my age that saw these wonderful women who taught us and dedicated their lives, we all wanted to emulate. But, you know, the nuns take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The one for me, the obedience - I think I would have had a tough time.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MIKULSKI: But just ask Harry Reid or George Bush, and they would say the same thing.

HANSEN: Senator Barbara Mikulski, Democrat from Maryland, thank you for inviting us to your office on Capitol Hill. And thank you very much for your time.

MIKULSKI: Good to be with you.

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