How and why did the residents of Boston change their attitude toward Hester in The Scarlet Letter?
In between chapter 12 and 13, Dimmsdale offers and sermon and the people begin to see the benefit of Hester to the town. Hester had not been the topic of his sermon, but he used an illustration that talked about a meteor he had seen in the shape of an "A" which made him think of an angel. Of course, this was not in reference to Hester, but it may have stood to prompt the people to think about the scarlet letter "A" she wore.
By chapter 13, the townspeople began quietly and gradually holding Hester in great regard. Many years had past since her original sin and they valued her embroidery and generosity. Whenever anyone was sick, Hester gave of herself to help rid of sickness or provide extra food for a family. She took her life as it was stricken with poverty and offered a great respect and care for the humanity around her. It was for these reasons that she began to be regarded as a great "Sister of Mercy". Eventually
"many people refused to interpret the scalet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman's strength."
This influence grew and grew throughout Boston and instead of having a great disdain for Hester, the people maintained a great respect for her.