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Great Dames of California

These seven women define grace with purpose. Each, in their own extraordinary way, continually helps shape our state.

May 14, 2000

Rosa Broadous

Age: 81

Residence: Pacoima

Accomplishments: Founding member, Valley branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People; volunteer, VISTA; member, Valley Interfaith Council; member, Northeast Valley Optimists; life member, PTA; literacy tutor, Calvary Baptist Church; "Queen Mother" award recipient, National Council of Negro Women.

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The telephone call was to Calvary Baptist Church in Pacoima: "Mrs. Broadous, please." Short pause. "Mother Broadous?"

At 81, Rosa Broadous has earned her title. Mother of 10, six of them ministers, she is recognized on the cornerstone of Calvary Baptist Church in Pacoima as mother of the church.

When the church was founded in 1955, she said, many younger congregants "had left mothers and grandmothers back wherever they came from, so I was sort of a mother figure."

She sits in a favorite chair in the living room of the home she and her husband built in 1953. Pinned to her crisp white dress are emblems of a lifetime of giving: PTA, RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program), Valley Interfaith Council. . . .

Though she never misses Sunday service, she no longer drives and gets around less. But then, she said, "I don't feel like getting up every morning and getting dressed."

That doesn't mean she fiddles away hours before the TV.

"If 'Oprah's' having anything interesting, I'll watch 'Oprah.' Sometimes it's a waste of time."

Broadous has never been one to waste time. Not with six girls and four boys to raise while being helpmate to her now-late husband, Hillery, founding father and first pastor of Calvary Baptist.

Officially, she is not co-founder. In the '50s, a woman's job was to direct the choir, work with the youth and the mission society "and entertain." Today that's changing, she said. "Praise the Lord."

Rosa Broadous, born in Arkansas, was the only child of a laundrywoman and a mill worker. She met Hillery when he came to stoke the wood stove at her boarding school dorm.

"The sparks flew," she said, speaking of friction, not romance. But they married the next year, in 1937.

They had four children by World War II when, like others leaving the South, Hillery found work in an Oregon shipyard. Later, after his discharge from the service, they moved to the San Fernando Valley.

Rosa Broadous' father was told once he was wasting money to send her to a Christian school--"All she's going to be able to do is clean houses."

After being widowed in 1982, she earned an associate degree in human relations from Los Angeles Mission College. She regrets not having a four-year degree but said, "I don't think I'm going back to school."

She was always there for her children, even when she "had to leave a job and go to school to see what was going on." When one of them graduated from high school, the whole class erupted, "Praise the Lord!"

With children and grandchildren, she's learned, "being able to keep your mouth shut" is a great virtue, though "the older you get, the harder it is." William took over as pastor after his father's death. His sister, Cecilia, is a missionary in South Africa.

Empowering children and adults through reading is part of a life "pretty fulfilled." She's also worked for the NAACP, the Braille Institute, Scouting and the YWCA and takes pride in watching children at church "grow into strong men and women."

Her philosophy?

"You do what you can, and leave the rest to the Lord."

Iris Cantor

Age: Her secret

Residence: Bel-Air

Accomplishments: At Los Angeles Museum of Art, established Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Plaza and the B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Garden; donated 114 works of art including Rodin's "Monument to Balzac"; provided funding, Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery; at UCLA Medical Center, established Iris Cantor Center for Breast Imaging, Iris Cantor Mobile Mammography Community Outreach Program, Iris Cantor-UCLA Women's Health Center, Iris Cantor Woman's Health and Education Resource Center; member, executive board for medical sciences at UCLA; at Stanford University's Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, established Rodin Research Fund, donated 268 works of art including Rodin's monument "Gates of Hell," provided funding for B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Garden; for the Discovery Fund for Eye Research, established the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Fellowship; member, board of trustees, Otis College of Art and Design; member, board of governors, UCLA foundation at the Los Angeles Music Center; member, board of trustees, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York; established Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Film Center at the Tisch School of Arts at New York University; honored for patronage of the Tisch School; honored by the Rogosin Institute/National Kidney Foundation of New York/New Jersey as "Woman of the Year."

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Integrity is the rule Iris Cantor lives by.

"I also say exactly what I think--even if I know it's not what someone wants to hear! It's important to be honest, and one always knows where they stand with me. I'm an optimist."

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