She is one of only 75 women in
the United States Congress. She is at the center of a raging national debate
over the Federal Marriage Amendment she sponsored that declares marriage is
reserved for one man and one woman. In a recent two-week span, in-depth reports
on the soft-spoken but tenacious lawmaker appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times as well as on ABC World News Tonight.
Marilyn N. Musgrave doesn’t consider her political career
to be the pinnacle of her 55 years on earth.
“It’s wonderful to
pursue this stage of my life, but the earlier part of my life was more important,”
she told Today’s Pentecostal Evangel
in a phone interview from her congressional office in Washington, D.C. “Then
I was shaping four little human beings. It’s an awesome responsibility
to mold a child’s life.”
Musgrave, a first-term representative
from rural eastern Colorado, knows the importance of a godly heritage. She
credits her Christian mother, Birdie, and grandmother, Noma, with shaping
her values while growing up in a poor home in the Centennial State. Her stay-at-home
mother made sure Musgrave and her two brothers attended church and heard the
“I always knew my mom and
grandma loved me,” Musgrave says. “Dad did, too, for that matter.”
Her alcoholic father, now deceased, worked off and on in a slaughterhouse.
As a teenager, Musgrave worked
as a babysitter, housecleaner and waitress. For the past 36 years she has
been married to Steve Musgrave, whom she met at a Bible camp at age 14. Their
early contact consisted only of letters; she lived near Greeley, north of
Denver, and he lived on a farm outside Fort Morgan on the northeastern Colorado
plains. Even after Steve obtained his driver’s license at 16, the couple
saw each other infrequently because of the 90-minute distance between their
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After finishing her
first year at Colorado State University, Musgrave wed at age 19.
She went on to become the first member of her family to graduate
from college when she earned a bachelor of arts in social studies.
For several years there always
seemed to be a newborn and toddler in the house. “The days my children
were born were the happiest days of my life,” Musgrave says.
The Musgraves have two sons and
two daughters ranging in age from 23 to 33. Marilyn has tender memories of
raising them, even on the daunting days.
“I remember feeling overwhelmed
as a young mother when the children were sick,” she says. “When
you have three on antibiotics and you’re sleep deprived, it can be difficult.
But we need to try to savor every moment because it goes by very quickly.”
As the children grew, she faithfully
attended the Little League games and wrestling matches of her sons. She gave
interior decorating advice for the backyard playhouse hangout of her daughters.
The Musgraves went several years without owning a television set, which contributed
to their family togetherness.
“The worst thing for the
kids to say was, ‘I’m bored,’ ” Musgrave recalls.
“I would take them to the garden and have them weed two rows. Early
on they learned how to play creatively.”
Musgrave is grateful that her husband
worked two jobs so that she could stay home with the young brood. She says
none of her children ever mouthed off to her because each understood Dad would
be home at the end of the day, and no one wanted to tangle with him.
Steve taught math and computer
classes during the school year, but in the summer the family operated a custom
hay-baling business. Here the children learned a strong work ethic, which
included the sons driving bale wagons and the daughters helping out with the
“We tried to teach the kids
to work hard,” Musgrave says. “We taught our children that whatever
they have is the result of somebody working for it.” In the family car
en route to the agricultural business, Steve read stories aloud as Marilyn
drove. All the children learned how to drive in a hayfield.