Born and raised in the Highlandtown neighborhood of East Baltimore, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski is known as a fighter and a champion for the people of Maryland. The longest serving woman in Congressional history, Sen. Mikulski served for five years on the Baltimore City Council; ten years in the US House of Representatives; and 30 in the US Senate. On December 20, 2012, Sen. Mikulski became the first woman and first Marylander to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee. Throughout her tenure, Sen. Mikulski never forgot that she was not only the Senator from Maryland, but the Senator for Maryland.
A tenacious advocate for the people of Maryland, Sen. Mikulski is known for her work in women’s empowerment, equity, and health, civil rights education, jobs, research and innovation, cybersecurity, seniors, and veterans. She was also a champion for space exploration, playing a major role in saving the Hubble Space Telescope, which has led to countless advances in astronomy and physics. Throughout her time in office, she firmly believed there was no issue too small to advocate for, and no interest too large to take on.
For her tireless work focusing on the day-to-day needs of Marylanders and the long-range needs of the nation, Sen. Mikulski was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2015. In addition, Sen. Mikulski was inducted to National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2015, and the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame in 1988. She has received countless awards and accolades for her work and advocacy on behalf of the people, from organizations as varied as the American Heart Association, to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, to the US Coast Guard. She has also been awarded honorary degrees and doctorates in Humane Letters and Law from esteemed academic institutions including Goucher College, Morgan State University, Johns Hopkins University, and the Pratt Institute.
Prior to her career in elected office, Sen. Mikulski earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Mount St. Agnes College in Baltimore (since merged with Loyola University), and a Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University of Maryland. Sen. Mikulski was an accomplished social worker and Adjunct Professor for many years prior to her election to the Baltimore City Council in 1971.
Her training and experience as a social worker formed the bedrock of her approach to politics and public office. She believed that constituents have a right to know, a right to be heard, and a right to be represented. She listened to her constituents and made the personal political. Through her work as a social worker, Sen. Mikulski recognized that many of the issues communities and individuals face are due to systems and policies rather than individual action or inaction.
This understanding, paired with her talent for organizing and communications, lead a young Sen. Mikulski to fighting the installation of a sixteen-lane highway along Baltimore’s waterfront – right through many of the City’s Black neighborhoods and ethnic urban enclaves. Known for her fiery wit, Sen. Mikulski famously told the powers that be, that “the termites couldn’t take Fells Point, the British couldn’t take Fells Point, and by God, the State’s Roads Commission can’t take Fells Point!” Sen. Mikulski’s work – along with the work of countless activists across the City – helped save the waterfront and launched her political career.
Viewing politics as social work with power, Sen. Mikulski went to work every day for the people of Maryland asking “how can I help you?” It was this spirit of service and focus on the needs of her constituents that allowed Sen. Mikulski to serve for as long as she did. When she was sworn into office on January 5, 2011, Mikulski became the longest serving woman Senator in U.S. history. 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 the nation.”
After retiring from the Senate in 2017, Sen. Mikulski became a Homewood Professor of Public Policy at Johns Hopkins University, where she co-taught undergraduate courses in Political Science, Sociology, and Public Health up until Spring of 2022. She is currently an Affiliate of the Johns Hopkins SNF Agora Institute and serves on the Boards of the National Democratic Institute and the Baltimore Community Foundation.
Read about Senator Mikulski’s appointment as JHU faculty in the HUB