Aunts are a class of strict and powerfully disciplinary women in Gilead. They are some of the highest-ranking women, responsible for overseeing the training and indoctrination of Handmaids, overseeing births, and presiding over women's executions. They, along with Guardians, are also responsible for monitoring prisoners in the Colonies. 

The Aunts are led by the Founding Aunts: Lydia, the most important of them all, Elizabeth, Helena and Vidala.


Aunts wear modest, brown clothing and belts with cattle prods attached. 


The Aunts were devised by Commander Frederick B. Judd. Older women with law degrees were imprisoned in a center, and a random number executed by firing squad each day. Each night, a random woman would be taken away and locked in a Thank Tank, a squalid cell - and then released to a luxury hotel to recuperate. Three days afterwards, the woman would be handed a brown dress and have to participate in the firing squads and kill the unlucky ones selected.

Aunts run the Rachel and Leah Center, where Handmaids are sent to be trained and where they live in between assignments. Aunts are in charge of training the Handmaids and ensuring they don't escape, and doling out punishments to disobedient Handmaids. Due to their positions, they are the only women in Gilead permitted to read and write and have near-absolute power over the Handmaids, making them freer than most women under the regime. Though they are the only literate women, they are not permitted to be married.

Some Aunts came from positions of leadership and power. For example, Aunt Helena ran a Weight Watchers in Iowa, which made her the perfect person to encourage the Handmaids' testimonials. Aunts are usually fanatical supporters of Gilead and are brutal in their indoctrination of the Handmaids. Their training often involves Bible readings and sermons, lectures on Gilead's beliefs and on morality and 'a woman's place', viewings of violent, hardcore pornography and 'therapy' sessions, where women are forced to share their darkest secrets and 'sins' and are publicly shamed for them, as if it was their own fault.

Aunts also attend the births of babies by Handmaids, escorting other Handmaids to births to take part in the celebrations. In addition, Aunts preside over Particicutions, and other public salvagings, and announce the condemned's crimes and reminding everyone e.g. handmaids of their society's pure and Godly values.

Aunts also act as overseers and aggressive slave drivers in the toxic Colonies.

Aunts are fundamental in the instruction of Daughters, educating them of their marital duties.

Junior aunts are called Supplicants.

Pearl Girls are young Aunts who act as missionaries.

Known Aunts


  • It is revealed in the epilogue that the Aunts deliberately had names associated with household products commonly used by women; for example, Aunt Sara, due to the association with Sara Lee, so as to make the Aunts seem more familiar to the Handmaids.
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