(Written from the perspective of Aibileen.) On Mae Mobley's third birthday, Aibileen wakes her up with a song and a delicious sweets strawberry dessert. (Miss Leefolt is out getting her hair done, as unmindful of her daughter as always.) To Aibileen's surprise, Mae Mobley tells her that she's her real mama, and insists this is true even when Aibileen tries to correct her.
Hilly calls up the Leefolt household in a panic. Miss Leefolt, Aibileen, and Mae Mobley rush to her house, only to find dozens of toilets - of all colors, sizes, ages, and types - sitting on the lawn of Hilly's house. Aibileen pieces the story together listening to Miss Leefolt and Hilly: Skeeter finally printed the information about Hilly's Home Help Sanitation Initiative in the League newsletter, but she made a typo in the piece about the coat drive below it. Rather than asking people to drop off their used coats at Hilly's house, the article invited people to drop off their used toilets.
To make matters worse, it's a slow news week and the toilet debacle finds its way into the pages of newspapers as far distant as the New York Times. This is a funny incident, but it spells social disaster for Skeeter. Hilly and Miss Leefolt kick her out of bridge club and stop speaking to her. Mr. Leefolt tells Aibileen that she'll be fired if he hears about her talking to Skeeter about anything. Aibileen tells Skeeter all about this when she sees her next, and Skeeter tries hard to pretend that none of it matters to her.
(Written from the perspective of Aibileen.) The civil rights struggle escalates - the march on Washington is a success, but it leads to the bombing of a church. Hilly has several of the lawn toilets installed in people's homes: she calls Skeeter's prank a blessing in disguise. Aibileen tries to positively influence Mae Mobley by telling her stories about the equality of black and white people.
One day, Celia shows up during a meeting of the bridge club, offering her help for the benefit dinner. She receives an icy reception from Hilly, Miss Leefolt, and the their women, but remains undeterred. The other women say they don't need her help, but she buys two tickets to the benefit from them. She offhandedly mentions her maid Minny and how Elizabeth Leefolt (in reality, Aibileen) recommended her. Hilly, who has blacklisted Minny because of their feud, is enraged and determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. Aibileen calls Minny in a panic, telling her that Celia has told Hilly that she hired Minny on Elizabeth's recommendation; this could be disastrous for both women, because Aibileen could get fired and Hilly could have yet another reason to take revenge on Minny.
(Written from the perspective of Minny.) Luckily for Aibileen and Minny, Hilly eventually decides that Minny must have made up the recommendation, which is a relief because it means Aibileen will not get fired. Minny, however, has other problems to deal with. Her work at Celia's house is made more difficult by a painful cut on her eyebrow; Minny's husband beat her last night, even more savagely than he usually does. Celia notices this injury and tells Minny she must see a doctor. Minny refuses, and Celia tells her to sit down and drink some coffee.
Suddenly, the women catch sight of a deranged naked white man outside the house. He makes threatening gestures at them. Minny and Celia are terrified; they are far out in the countryside, it will take the police far too long to get to the house. When the man smashes a window to get at the women, Minny leaps out to attack him with a broom. The man keeps just out of Minny's reach, shouting taunts at her until she exhausts herself. When she pauses, he strikes her hard, stunning her. Just then, Celia hits the man with a fire poker, exhibiting a strength and fury that Minny did not know she possessed. Celia beats the man until he finally runs away. She explains to the amazed Minny that she used to be a good fighter years ago in Sugar Ditch.
Aibileen comes to see Minny that afternoon, and Minny discusses the events of the day with her. They are both amazed that Celia put herself at risk to defend a black woman. They also try to figure out what to do about Minny's husband Leroy, who is becoming increasingly violent with her.
Celia prepares for the Children's Benefit, which is hosted by the League. Minny delicately tries to explain why the League ladies won't return her calls: she's married to Johnny, Hilly's ex-boyfriend. Celia is oblivious to the social nuances, and assumes that Hilly must think Johnny cheated on her; she decides Hilly should know the truth: that Johnny only took up with Celia after he had broken up with Hilly. Celia puts on a very revealing bright pink dress, and drinks a whole bottle of wine. Minny tries to get her to change into something else or eat something, but Celia ignores her advice. Minny, who will be catering the Benefit, has a very bad feeling about this whole event.
Aibileen continues her mission to instill positive values in Mae Mobley by telling her stories about equality; her own mother rarely talks to her. Aibileen is the one, rather than Mae Mobley's biological mother, who wakes her up with a delicious treat on her birthday. Mae Mobley's insistence that Aibileen is her true mother raises the question: What truly makes a mother? Is it nurturance or is it blood relation? The Help seems to suggest that it is nurturance, and someone who is unrelated (and even of a different race) can be an excellent mother.
Hilly, who prides herself on her immaculate public reputation, has her toilet-strewn lawn featured in a number of popular magazines. To make matters worse, it was her friend Skeeter who was behind it all. Hilly's Home Help Sanitation Initiative (which encourages white families to install toilets for the colored help) makes this prank particularly ironic; Hilly is disgusted at the unsanitary nature of toilets, and now her lawn is covered with them. Hilly swiftly takes her revenge by cutting Skeeter off from most social events in Jackson.
Chapter 23 demonstrates the closely entangled nature of social relationships. When Celia shows up at the bridge club and mentions that Minny works for her, she accidentally strikes a powder keg of secrets and deception. Aibileen pretended to be Miss Leefolt recommending Minny; Aibileen is desperate to hide this from the white women, and Miss Leefolt wants to clear her name with Hilly, who hates Minny and would never recommend her to anyone. Hilly wants to make sure that Minny never tells anyone (especially someone she dislikes as much as Celia) about the Terrible Awful. Minny is dismayed that Hilly now knows where she is working. With this small, innocent act, Celia has complicated a number of social relationships.
The events in Chapter 24 demonstrate that Celia is not as simple or helpless as she seemed before. Her ferocious defense of Minny opens up a new window to her character: as a child, she was a tough fighter in Sugar Ditch, but she has largely left behind that part of her personality in order to move up in society as Johnny Foote's wife. Minny develops a newfound respect for Celia; she notes that the other woman is somewhat like herself, someone who takes no shit. This incident also demonstrates how much Celia cares for Minny. She could have saved herself by running inside and leaving Minny to the mercy of the naked man, but instead she decided to put herself in danger to help her friend.