Nicholas Stix has an item about racism and the phrase ”church ladies.” reporting that in 1989, (when Dana Carvey was on television once a week as a white church lady) a "black foster care agency colleague accused me of being ”racist” for using the phrase, ”church ladies.”"
Well, isn't that special? I know what Stix meant by ”church ladies.” It's a common type of African-American older woman who spends a lot of time in church, and wears a hat and nice dress on Sunday.(She votes Democratic, and doesn't think much of hip-hop.)
That's a stereotype, but it's an accurate one.
However, it's not a negative one, and it's not exclusive to elderly ladies on Harlem. The class of old ladies who wear hats to church and vote Democratic would include the late Ethel Kennedy.