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The fact that anyone trying to tell a simple story of the daily life of a group of women could be considered subversive is a pretty fair indicator of the state of relations in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960's. An aspiring writer and journalist, Skeeter determines that she has found a story worth telling: the story of the black women who take care of the white children and their parents' homes, almost becoming surrogate parents to their charges. To suggest that these black women might even have a point of view is an anomaly; to imply that there are things occurring in the community that are unjust to them is to invite social ostracism from the white community for Skeeter, and possibly even worse for Minnie, Aibilene, and the other women, should they agree to be interviewed. For, although the Civil War has been over for a hundred years at that point, civil rights for African-Americans are still pretty much non-existent, particularly in the South. These will be the days, in the 1960's of sit-ins, Freedom Riders, firehoses and bombings like the one that will kill several little girls in a Birmingham church, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm XS before it's all over with. The reluctance with which the maids agree to be interviewed, and the secrecy in which it must happen for everyone's protection, shows the reader how very little it took to be considered "subversive" in the South during this time period, and how dangerous it was for the women to do what they were doing.
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