Last week Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland became the longest serving US Congresswoman! She was elected to the US House of Representative in 1976 and, 10 years later, became the first woman elected to the Senate who stood on her own merit and not put in office because she was the spouse or daughter of a previous senator.
When I spent time in Washington in the early 1990′s advocating for women’s health issues, one of the first people we went to for help, was Barbara Mikulski. She was something! Only 4’11″ we had to put a stepstool behind the dias whenever she spoke so the audience could see her. She grew up in Baltimore, Maryland where her family ran a grocery store. She was raised Catholic and even considered becoming a nun but she has always taken a progressive stance on women’s issues. Over her tenure she supported legislation that:
- Helped create the National Institutes of Health Office of Women’s Health to study women’s needs and health issues
- Created the Mammogram Quality Standards Act and continues to fight for strong standards and yearly facility inspections
- Ended gender discrimination by insurance companies, so being a woman is not considered a pre-existing condition
- Required screening and preventative care — including annual mammograms for women over 40 — for no co-pay and no-deductible
- Made maternity services part of essential benefits package
- Allowed women to see their OB/GYN without a referral
- Supports no cost access to contraception
CLICK HERE to see this feisty woman in action (and standing on a platform!). She is definitely a women’s health hero!