At the end of chapter 24, Atticus enters the kitchen and tells Aunt Alexandra, Miss, Maudie, Scout, and Calpurnia that Tom Robinson was shot and killed trying to escape from the prison yard. He is shaken, and he takes Calpurnia with him to tell Robinson's wife the bad news.
After Atticus and Calpurnia have gone, Aunt Alexandra has an outburst in which she attacks the townspeople for what they have done to Atticus. She says:
They’re perfectly willing to let him wreck his health doing what they’re afraid to do.
Miss Maudie responds that the handful of white people in the town who deplore the injustice doled out to Black people appreciate and honor Atticus.
However, shaken as they are, Miss Maudie and Aunt Alexandra know the show must go on. They need to return to the Ladies' Missionary Society tea as if nothing important had just happened. Scout comes with them and is able to see her aunt and neighbor as steel spined "ladies" in their ability to retain their graciousness as if nothing is wrong. This allows her to perceive being a lady in a new and more favorable light as a form of grace under pressure, and for once she doesn't resent playing the ladylike part. When Aunt Alexandra nods at her to offer around cookies:
I carefully picked up the tray and watched myself walk to Mrs. Merriweather. With my best company manners, I asked her if she would have some. After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I.
While the young Scout, living in the 1930s, imbues this "ladylike" behavior with a patina of nobility, viewing it from a twenty-first century perspective might invite us to a look at it more critically. Aunt Alexandra's overwhelming concern is for the effects of Tom's death on Atticus, with no thought to Tom's devastated family or to the loss of such a vibrant life to the community. This could be seen as a tad self centered and racist, even if Atticus is her brother. Second, modern feminism might object to courage and grace being equated with women's ability to stay silent.