Barbara Mikulski Becomes Longest-Serving Female Senator

Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski became the longest-serving woman in Senate history Wednesday.

Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe and three others held a small ceremony on the Senate floor in the morning to mark the milestone, as Mikulski replaced former Maine senator Margaret Chase Smith as the record holder. Chase Smith, a Republican, served for 24 years.

Milkulski in late December sat down with CNN and reflected what life was like for her as the first Democratic woman elected to the Senate in her own right:

Mikulski says that when she arrived in the Senate, what she wore become a "very big deal."

"I'm most comfortable wearing slacks, and well, for a woman to come on the (Senate) floor in trousers was viewed as a seismographic event," says Mikulski.

She said she had to alert Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, then the Democratic leader, that she intended to wear pants to work.

"The Senate parliamentarian had looked at the rules to see if it was OK. So, I walk on that day and you would have thought I was walking on the moon. It caused a big stir," she remembers with a mischievous smile.

Also honoring Mikulski at the ceremony were Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.).

"Having been privileged to know Senator Mikulski for more than 30 years, beginning with our mutual service in the House of Representatives, I cannot conceive of anyone I would rather witness overtaking such a sacrosanct milestone than the Senior Senator from Maryland - a beloved, vigorous champion of the people of her state, and unquestionably the women of America," said Snowe in prepared remarks.

"Indisputably, for both my Maine colleague Senator Collins and me, the landmark occasion we are commemorating is all the more personal and poignant given we are both colleagues and dear friends of Senator Mikulski, and also direct inheritors and beneficiaries of Senator Margaret Chase Smith's groundbreaking service," she added.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also offered Mikulski "my heartfelt congratulations" in a statement on the Senate floor, though she was not at the morning event.

"This occasion has a special meaning for me. As she begins her 25th year in the Senate, Senator Mikulski now surpasses my personal role model in public service, Senator Margaret Chase Smith. Just as the Great Lady from Maine inspired me and countless other young women of my generation to serve, Senator Mikulski inspires the young women of today," Collins said.

Presented by

Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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