PHILADELPHIA — When Barbara A. Mikulski was elected 30 years ago, she was the only woman Democrat in the Senate.
On Thursday night, she joined 11 of the other 13 female Senate Democrats on the stage to help introduce the first woman presidential nominee.
This was a moment the Democratic women of the Senate had been waiting for.
“Now, it’s time for me to pass the torch to a new generation,” said Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat who is retiring at the end of the current Congress. “Families of America, it’s time to suit up. With our lipstick on. With our shoes polished. Our shoulders squared. Ready to fight. To put Hillary in the White House. Because we know she’ll be carrying the torch for all of us.”
All of the women Democrats wrote to Clinton as early as October 2013, encouraging her to run for president in 2016. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., signed on to that letter. Warren did not join the women in formally endorsing Clinton for president last November.
She eventually came on board, and stood on stage at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia with her colleagues, reprising her message of how Clinton will fight against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“Hillary Clinton knows how to fight back against dangerous, loud-mouthed bullies. For 25 years, she’s been on the receiving end of one attack after another. But she doesn’t back down. She doesn’t whine. She doesn’t run to Twitter to give people nasty nicknames,” Warren said.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., served with Clinton when she represented New York from 2001-09 in the Senate.
“A thousand percent we backed her, and it’s because we know her and we trust her,” Stabenow said on the convention floor Wednesday night.
The Senate women appeared on stage together, delivering round-robin speeches filled with personal anecdotes and a bit of policy.
People in the arena were perhaps most attentive for Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., as she shared a very personal story about Hillary Clinton.
“We all know that Hillary is the most knowledgeable, most experienced, most capable leader to run for president in a long time,” McCaskill said. “But here’s something you may not know: Earlier this year, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Hillary called me to check in not once, but several times. She asked me how my treatments were going, she told me to keep up the fight.
“Her words gave me strength during one of the toughest tests of my life. She didn’t do it because I was a senator. There are thousands of people across this country who could tell the exact same story.”
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the Senate women have a personal connection to Hillary, “not just a friend and a coworker, but someone we worked side by side with.”
Murray came to the Senate after election in 1992 with three other women, in what has been dubbed the “Year of the Woman.”
At that time, Mikulski was the only woman Democrat in the Senate. Mikulski decided to develop a “power workshop ” to talk with other women about how to be an effective senator.
“She didn’t come here to be the only one,” Murray said of Mikulski, now the dean of the women of the Senate.
Mikulski was chosen to formally nominate Clinton for president before the roll call vote early Tuesday evening.
“It is with a full heart that I am here today as we nominate Hillary Clinton to be the first woman president,” Mikulski said then.
While this was, personally, a memorable moment for the women senators, they were also thinking about the women who will come after them.
“As someone who has encouraged young girls to be everything they can be throughout my career, to take on challenges … this is an historic moment,” Murray said.
“I can now really look at all those young women, including my own two granddaughters and say you can be whoever you want to be,” Murray said. “Look who is the president, a woman.”