By the end of Chapter One in Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, Rosaleen, Lily's governess and surrogate mother, is attacked by a group of men who hurl racial insults at her while she is preparing to register to vote on the 4th of July, just after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Rosaleen responds by pouring tobacco spit from her snuff jug onto their shoes. A physical fight ensues, resulting in Rosaleen being severely injured, followed by both Rosaleen's and Lilly's arrests. In Chapter Two, Lilly's father, T. Ray, has Lilly released but not Rosaleen and warns Lily that one of the men Rosaleen attacked, Franklin Posey, will most likely see to Rosaleen's murder. Lily's reaction to the news starts the fight between father and daughter.
T. Ray is aware that Lily sees Rosaleen as a surrogate mother and wants to dissuade her from this belief because he also sees Rosaleen as a bad example due to her race. T. Ray is absolutely furious at his daughter for having been with Rosaleen in a moment that led to her arrest. When T. Ray threatens Lily physically, it leads the poor tormented girl who misses her deceased mother so much to shout, "My mother will never let you touch me again!" which further leads to a horrible fight about whether or not Lily's deceased mother loved her (p. 38 - 39). He ends the fight by telling her that the day her mother died, she "ran off and left [Lily]," only returning to "get her things" (p. 39). Hence, in T. Ray's opinion, Lily should stop seeing her mother as a "guardian angel" and stop seeking a mother figure to replace her.