Not much is known about Cora's life prior to the Republic of Gilead, though she mentions that she "got her tubes tied" for unknown reasons. She does not mention if she had any children prior to this, though given how eager she seems for Offred to conceive, it may imply she never had children and may now regret the procedure. It is implied that Cora was the one who discovered the body of Offred's predecessor after she hanged herself, which was quite traumatic for Cora.
Cora is mainly in charge of cleaning and other menial tasks. Cora is much more cheerful and friendly compared to her fellow Martha, Rita. She is nicer to Offred and makes an effort to be kind to her, letting her have treats and even knocking before she enters Offred's room, which surprises and moves Offred, as it allows her some small sliver of privacy. She also doesn't look down on Offred for being a Handmaid, even stating that if she could bear children, she'd have considered it herself. However, she sometimes treats Offred is a somewhat patronising manner or even a burden. Also, given her strong desire for a child, she seems to view Offred as a means to an end. Cora very much wants Offred to conceive, as she would then be able to help raise the child, something she looks forward to.
On one occasion, Cora brings Offred a tray of food, only to find her sleeping in the wardrobe. Cora is shocked by this, screaming and dropping the tray - she had apparently mistakenly believed that Offred had committed suicide, like her predecessor. When Offred wakes up and reassures her, Cora is greatly relieved and Offred helps her clean up the dropped food. When Offred is taken away by the Eyes in the end, Cora is watching. She is very upset, sobbing, though Offred believes it's because she saw Offred as her last chance to gain a child, more so than concern over what would happen to Offred (though we cannot know this for certain).
In the TV seriesEdit
In the television adaption of the television adaption of the novel, Cora is the Martha of Commander Lawrence, who Emily is sent to after she is retrieved from the Colonies. Her relationship with her Commander is quite turbulent, and they appear to be more equals in the household than master and servant. She is missing an eye and tends to swear.