Mrs. Bertha Flowers glides into Maya’s life about a year after Mr. Freeman’s death, coming alongside Maya in the midst of her malaise and ultimately pulling her out of despair and depression. Having been raped by Mr. Freeman right before his death, Maya retreats to the confines of her own mind, taking a vow of silence to cope with the shame and trauma she has endured. Mrs. Flowers coaxes her out of silence by feeding her poetry and cookies, teaching her the difference between illiteracy and ignorance, and bolstering Maya’s self-confidence with her warm, firm words.  

Mrs. Flowers is rich in material wealth and knowledge, carrying an air of dignity scarcely found amongst other folks who frequent the Store. Maya admires Mrs. Flowers from afar and when she is invited to her house for a chat, Maya is hard-pressed to find something to wear that feels worthy of the occasion, indicative of the reverence Mrs. Flowers evokes. Mrs. Flowers offers Maya her first glimpse of light in a dark time and is a key figure in her healing process after being raped. She introduces Maya to the world of literature and bestows life lessons through simple yet profound explanations. She opens Maya’s eyes to the possibilities of who she can become and symbolizes a powerful yet graceful subversion of racism and sexism. She is an enchanting figure, full of strength and wisdom, leaving a lasting impression on Maya as “the measure of what a human being can be.”