Barbara Mikulski was born in Baltimore, where she currently resides. She earned a bachelor's degree from Mount St. Agnes College and a master's degree from the University of Maryland School of Social Work.
She was a social worker and later an adjunct professor at Loyola College.
Mikulski served on the Baltimore City Council from 1971 to 1976. She headed the national Democratic Party delegate selection commission in 1973.
In 1974, as the Democratic nominee, Mikulski lost a race for the U.S. Senate to incumbent Republican Charles Mathias. She was elected to the U.S. House in 1976 and was re-elected in 1978, 1980, 1982 and 1984.
She was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986.
She is single.
Barbara Mikulski became the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress in March 2012, after serving more than 35 years in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
She was honored on the Senate floor on her 12,892 day in Congress in March 2012. She was praised for her tenacity, feistiness, dedication and even the time she won over a Texas crowd at a steer auction.
"She gave voice to the voiceless, power to the powerless," said Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.
The former social worker has looked out for her state as a member of the Appropriations Committee and has been a tough advocate for NASA and space programs. She has favored abortion rights and pushed for health care coverage. In 2000, she was part of the book "Nine and Counting," as the women of the Senate wrote about their obstacles and experiences in politics. The proceeds from the book went to the Girl Scouts of America.
In the middle of the speeches, Mikulski acknowledged the praise with a mix of humor, self-deprecation and appreciation for those who helped her. She recalled her father, who ran a grocery store, and the nuns who taught her.
"I even thought about being a Catholic nun, but that vow of obedience kind of slowed me down a little bit," Mikulski said.
Mikulski has long been a strong advocate for women, health and bringing federal support to Maryland. She was honored in March 2012 by the Maryland African American Tourism Council, which bestowed the Harriet Ross Tubman Lifetime Achievement Award on Mikulski, the first non-African American award winner.
In keeping with her long practice of bringing federal money to Maryland, she is recognized for securing nearly $1 million in federal funds to create the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Historical Park in Dorchester County.
Also in a nod to her fiery advocacy, Mikulski had a supernova named in her honor in April 2012. She has been a long advocate for space exploration, and she was honored by the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore by having a supernova 7.4 billion light years away named "Supernova Mikulski."
Mikulski serves on the United States Naval Academy's Board of Visitors, and she has been an advocate for developing cybersecurity training at the academy.
In Februrary 2012, she announced a $10 million appropriation to create a National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg.
Mikulski is only 4 feet 11 inches tall and campaigns with a small platform or an aluminum suitcase so that she can be seen over podiums at campaign events. There is no question that she will be heard, though. What she lacks in size she more than makes up for with a booming voice and a quick wit.
Mikulski is known for her liberal voting record on domestic issues as well as her keen interest in space exploration.
Committee Assignments: Appropriations; Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Select Intelligence
American Conservative Union Rating: 0
Americans for Democratic Action Rating: 95
Barbara Mikulski is not up for re-election in 2014.
(Last updated by The Associated Press on June 24, 2014.)