Aibileen is told to return the silver Elizabeth Leefolt borrowed from Hilly, but finds herself suddenly accused of stealing it. Hilly comes over to coach her friend through firing Aibileen and pressing charges for thievery, but Elizabeth cannot do it. Aibileen threatens Hilly that if she sends her to jail, she'll spend her time writing letters to the whole town about Hilly and that chocolate pie. Hilly backs off, but Aibileen knows it is time to say good-bye to Mae Mobley and her brother. It is a tearful good-bye, but Aibileen decides her days as the help are over. She has been given the Miss Myrna job at the newspaper and has extra money from the book. She even begins thinking about more writing projects.
Leroy is fired because Hilly's husband told his boss to do so. When Leroy finds out he was fired because of something Minny did, he locks her in the house and says he'll burn the whole thing down. Minny's children run to the neighbors for protection, and Minny breaks free, too. She decides to leave Leroy for good rather than return to his abuse.
The story ends with hope. Both Aibileen and Minny have been empowered through the book-writing experience. Aibileen realizes that she has a talent for writing and could make her own path in life rather than work for someone else. Minny finds the strength to leave her husband's abuse, especially because she has a way to support herself by working for Celia. She moves to her sister's house and begins building her new life, as well.
The final scene between Aibileen and Skeeter reveals the true friendship and admiration that has grown between them. When Skeeter quits her job at the Jackson Journal, she reveals that Aibileen has really been writing the column all along. Skeeter convinces her boss to let Aibileen continue as long as her identity remains a secret, which means that Aibileen, like Skeeter, will be able to earn money for writing. Their dreams, which seemed so impossible, are beginning to come true.