In Kathryn Stockett's The Help, Skeeter, Elizabeth and Hilly are peers.
Skeeter is a free spirit who has no difficulty thinking for herself. Raised by a black maid who she deeply cared for, and having graduated from college, Skeeter is angry to see the way the other women mistreat their black maids. Skeeter finds that she has very little in common with these women she grew up with. Skeeter is aware that there is a line in society that separates her from "the help," but she is more prone to try to cross it, while Hilly and Elizabeth would never think of such a thing. It is the help, especially Aibileen, who reminds Skeeter of that line and how crossing it could be dangerous for the black maids that Skeeter wants to write about.
Skeeter has no illusions that she is something of an odd duck in comparison to the other women in Jackson. Struggling to write about Hilly's "Home Health Sanitation Initiative," Skeeter discovers something about herself—perhaps that it is all right to be different, especially in that if she were the same, it would be a terrible thing. If she is insane by not following the societal norms in Jackson, we can assume she would rather be crazy than not.
When I started typing out her bathroom initiative for the newsletter, typing words like disease and protect yourself and you’re welcome!, it was like something cracked open inside of me, not unlike a watermelon, cool and soothing and sweet. I always thought insanity would be a dark, bitter feeling, but it is drenching and delicious if you really roll around in it.
Elizabeth Leefolt is Aibileen's employer. She does not have an overly strong personality, and is generally not apt to have an original thought, deferring instead to Hilly. In fact, many of the things she wants to do or think are based on Hilly's opinion rather than Elizabeth's. Elizabeth and her husband do not have the money that Hilly and her other friends have. However, Elizabeth is [barely] able to afford Aibileen to raise her baby, a job Elizabeth neither enjoys nor seems to want to do. On her first day working at the Leefolt's Aibileen recalls:
Miss Leefolt, she look terrified a her own child. "What am I doing wrong? Why can't I stop it?"
It? That was my first hint: something is wrong with this situation.
She spends little time with her daughter and is abusive. It is Aibileen who, loving the little one, coddles Mae Mobley, trying to instill in the toddler that she has value even if her mother refuses to tell her so.
Skeeter is far different from Elizabeth and Hilly, while Hilly and Elizabeth have much more in common. As noted, Elizabeth listens closely to what Hilly has to say. Elizabeth has a personality that can be dominated by someone stronger—and Hilly Holbrooke is that person. Hilly despises Skeeter. Overall, she is a hateful and angry racist and bigot who fights to segregate whites from blacks in every possible way. At one point she encourages all the women she knows to install separate bathrooms in their homes for the help:
They carry different diseases than we do. That's why I've drafted the Home Health Sanitation Initiative.
President of the Junior League in Jackson, Hilly wields a great deal of power among women of her own age and social status. Hilly is not only nasty to the help, but she also goes as far as to falsely accuse Aibileen of stealing from her.
When Hilly suspects Aibileen's involvement in the published book, she threatens Aibileen:
Maybe I can't send you to jail for what you wrote, but I can send you for being a thief.
Hilly lies and says Aibileen stole some of her silverware. Then she fires Aibileen and Elizabeth does not stop her; but Elizabeth apologizes to Aibileen, and tells Hilly that if charges are to be filed, Hilly will have to do it herself.
All three women are the same age and from the same town. However, Skeeter is far different than Elizabeth and Hilly.