Aunt Elizabeth is a recurring character in the first, second, and third seasons of the TV Series, as well as a minor character in the novel. She serves as an Aunt at the Rachel and Leah Center and is responsible--along with other Aunts--for the training and indoctrination of Handmaids. She is considered one of the four founding Aunts of Gilead, along with Aunts Lydia, Helena, and Vidala.
- 1 In the Novel
- 2 In the TV Series
- 3 Appearances
- 4 References
In the Novel
Prior to Gilead
Coming from a high-class social sphere, Elizabeth attended Vassar College, and had theater experience of playing Hecuba in The Trojan Woman. She was an executive assistant to a female senator in DC who had presidential potential. She was selected to be one of the four Founding Aunts of Gilead.
The Handmaid's Tale
Aunt Elizabeth serves at the Rachel and Leah Center and is responsible for training and indoctrinating Handmaids. In this capacity, she, along with Aunt Sara, patrols the gymnasium where the Handmaids-in-training sleep and is permitted to carry a cattle-prod. She is also the Aunt responsible for teaching Gyn-Ed to the Handmaids, and as such is present at the birth of Janine's child.
Aunt Elizabeth is on washroom duty during Moira's second escape attempt. When Moira complains that the toilet is overflowing, Aunt Elizabeth attempts to fix it and is attacked by Moira. She leads Aunt Elizabeth into the basement, forces her to switch clothes with her, and ties her to a furnace. Offred later speculates that Aunt Elizabeth was likely interrogated about the escape, since the possibility of collusion would not have been ruled out.
In the TV Series
After the Takeover
In a flashback to a night during June's time at the Red Center, Aunt Elizabeth is mentioned by Alma as being responsible for bed checks that night. June and Moira attempt to bring Janine back to reality when she suffers a breakdown and attempts to relive her old life as a waitress, in an effort to avoid any punishment from 'Aunt Beth' during her checks.
Aunt Elizabeth is first seen yelling at Moira that her time is up in the bathroom. She is then seen helping Aunt Lydia instruct June, Moira, Janine, and other Handmaids-in-training on the specifics of the Ceremony.
In another flashback, June leads Aunt Elizabeth to the bathroom on the pretext of a toilet overflowing; in actuality, Moira is waiting in the bathroom to ambush her. June and Moira lead Aunt Elizabeth into the basement and, despite her pleas, force her to undress and tie her to a pipe. Moira takes her clothes in order to disguise herself as an Aunt, in an effort to escape with June; while Moira is (temporarily) successful, June is quickly recaptured. Aunt Lydia has her tied down and a vengeful Aunt Elizabeth whips her feet repeatedly as punishment.
In the Present
"A Woman's Place"
Aunt Elizabeth is present at the banquet in honor of the Mexican ambassador.
Aunt Elizabeth aids Aunt Lydia in carrying out and overseeing the punishment of the Handmaids in the aftermath of their refusal to stone Janine; she informs Aunt Lydia of June's pregnancy and, along with Aunt Lydia, takes her inside to dry off.
Aunt Elizabeth assists Aunt Lydia and another Aunt in helping June to pump breast milk. She comments that less milk has been produced than the day before.
Aunt Elizabeth is present at the Red Center when June returns after the burning of the Waterford's house. It is implied that, as a form of penance, she once again whips June's feet repeatedly. Some time later, she informs June that she has been assigned as Handmaid to Commander Lawrence.
15 years after the takeover of Gilead, a statue of Elizabeth can be seen at Ardua Hall. Lydia observes that Elizabeth's statue makes it appear as if she is "ready to explode."
Aunt Vidala tries to frame Elizabeth as undermining Lydia. Lydia informs her of this, and gets her to bear false witness by claiming that Dr. Grove tried to rape her, resulting in a Particicution led by Elizabeth.