The Handmaid's Tale Wiki
The Handmaid's Tale Wiki
You were there. All the time. But no one noticed you.

June realizes the origin of Gilead[1]

The Sons of Jacob are the conspiratorial group that devised the philosophy and social structure for a totalitarian patriarchal theocracy and orchestrated the rise of Gilead.[2]

Before Gilead[]

In the Novels[]

Professor Pieixoto describes the Sons of Jacob as "top-secret Think Tank".[2] Commander Fred states the group had the intention to "do better" but "never better for everyone"[3]

In the TV series[]

Origins, Beliefs, and Politics[]

The Boston Globe credits the organization as "old-fashioned group" which yet "raises new hopes" in the populace.[4] They are an ultraconservative, vaguely Christian denomination formed mainly in response to the infertility crisis, as well as to widespread pollution, and to the environmental, economic and social consequences of climate change. It would seem that the Sons of Jacob movement rose to prominence amidst a general religious revival in the wider American public probably owing to the same reasons.[5]

Although little is known about the specific details of their theology, the Sons of Jacob are at least nominally Christian and support "a return to traditional values” within the context of a strict 'back-to-the-land’ environmentalism. [5]

They reject the legitimacy of all other religions, including other Christians whom they regard as "heretics," and adhere to a very literal interpretation of the Bible, with a considerable emphasis on the Old Testament. They hold that women should embrace their “biological destiny” in marrying very young and reproducing children. As such, they hold that God does not want women to pursue education or careers and they prize traditional, larger families.

The Sons of Jacob regard the Fertility Crisis and climate change as a divine punishment for the sins of mankind and of women in particular. To that end, they are completely against any reproductive rights for women, like birth control or abortion. They similarly oppose divorce, same-sex relationships, and any sexual activity or relationships outside of marriage. They practice arranged marriages and openly favor female modesty, the restriction of married women to the home, and traditional gender roles for the sexes, with only men in permitted access to information, education, or positions of authority.

The Sons of Jacob combine this extremist traditionalism with an emphasis on environmentalism, sustainability, and organic food.

If the antiquarian, plain-dress uniforms they later impose on the populace is any indication, the Sons of Jacob seem to take some inspiration from the Puritans of colonial America.

Although its inner logistics are never explained, the group is led by an all-male board called the "Committee."[6] It is mentioned by Commander Pryce that the Sons of Jacob group is composed of local chapters. As it is a religious denomination, it is likely that these chapters were composed of local churches or congregations.

The early Sons of Jacob movement was active on social media—one member interviewed by the Boston Globe was radicalized via the organization’s Facebook page—and the religious group had a presence on American university campuses, where it’s missionaries and public speakers were met with furious protests, such as Serena Waterford. Several of its early members were published authors and conservative public intellectuals, like Serena Joy Waterford and Commander Lawrence. Serena Joy was a major public face for the organization and wrote literature and made media appearances on its behalf to the promote’ the group’s vision and agenda.

Andrew Pryce was an early member who recruited amongst unemployed youth, he explains that the Sons of Jacob movement will "set things right" and "clean up" the country from a way of life hitherto defined "only for profit and pleasure"[7]. The Boston Globe Front Page mentions that the Sons of Jacob raised a large sum of money for the families victimized in the President's Day Massacre and two early members of the movement were successful lawyers, suggesting that the movement had many wealthy members and influenced American society via charity organizations and community involvement.

In light of the infertility crisis, the movement begins to vaguely regard fertility as a 'national resource' and works in tandem with a wider conservative shift in the population toward restrictions on women's access to birth control and abortion.

By later inquiries in the Boston Globe archives about the group, June discovers their internal militarized power structure, as well as their support for the curtailing of civil rights in the aftermath of terrorist attack which they oversaw.[1] An assassination attempt is made on Serena Joy Waterford’s life during a speaking event for the movement at a university and the assailants are later hunted down by Fred Waterford and executed, suggesting that the group had become more openly radical over time and that it’s agenda had become more public, prompting outrage and controversy in the wider population.

Some, if not all, members seem to believe they are "doing God's work"[6] to "make the world better", yet admitting that "'better' never means better for everyone, it's always worse for some."[8]

Recruiting and Social Activity[]

In an interview with the Boston Globe one recruit says he discovered the Sons of Jacob on Facebook and was attracted to their emphasis on children and family values, or getting kids "away from their sinful families".[4] as he puts it. In the light of the Fertility Crisis, some U.S. policies deregulate or "privatize" the placement process for neglected children in response to a rapidly growing adoption market, allowing the Sons of Jacob to begin to influence child welfare services and policies.[9]. Aunt Lydia was an early member who, in her capacity as an elementary schoolteacher, pressed for the removal of children from homes she deemed unworthy. This suggests that the Sons of Jacob ideology had significant influence on then-privatized American social services, whose members regard nonreligious parenting and single parenting as demerits in their increasingly strict evaluations of child welfare.

When Andrew Pryce recruits Nick Blaine for the organization, he mentions that the group has chapters in thirty states and introduces Nick to the Sons of Jacob group in his capacity as an career counselor, suggesting that the Sons of Jacob recruited amongst unemployed youth.[7]

Before the Takeover[]

Prior to the attacks, the FBI is closing in on some of the conspirators. As a response, the "Committee" issues orders for "three strikes" of alleged terrorist attacks.[6] Pamphlets displayed in Mark Tuello’s office indicate that the Sons of Jacob had previously staged several protests, one called “the March on Congress,” and another called “A Show of Force,” in which the group’s followers marched through streets with weapons.

Coup d'état[]

See also: President's Day Massacre

In the novel[]

According to Offred, "'they' shot the president and machine-gunned the Congress, and the army declared a state of emergency". She adds "they blamed it on the Islamic fanatics" and that "the entire government" was "gone like that", making her wonder "how did 'they' get in". Later on "they suspended the Constitution" which they said "would be temporary". Moira suspects "they've been building up to this".[10]

In the TV series[]

According to Commander Fred Waterford, the attacks consist of "three strikes" against "the Congress, the White House and the Court".[6]

At the time, the TV reports an attack of "20-30 guys with machine guns ... shooting from the galleries" (Luke) of the Capitol and that "martial law has been declared", as well as "an explosive has been detonated (at) the White House". U.S. army officials then announce that the "National Guard is being deployed" and "has been called in" from all over the country.[11]

Similar to the book, June (as Offred) later recalls "'they' slaughtered Congress", "blamed terrorists", and "suspended the Constitution" which they said "would be temporary".[12]

In a flashback in A Woman's Place, several conspirators are then seen being tasked with "security" issues in a U.S.-flagged office (among them Mr. Waterford and Mr. Putnam), which seems to confirm the U.S. administration is under their control in the aftermath of the attacks. They also shut out female members from their political decisions at this point because they "won't let" women "forget their real purpose" again (Putnam).[6]

Waterford later tells Nick that a "Field Commander" of the conspirators "took New York",[7] and a refugee mentions to Luke that "D.C. fell",[13] which implies some military resistance against the SoJ's takeover flared up at some time.

After the takeover[]

In the novel[]

Newspapers are censored or closed down for "security reasons", roadblocks and "Identipasses" begin to appear. Offred says "everyone approved of that, since it was obvious you couldn't be too careful". Adult services like "Pornomats" vanish (which no one really misses) because "people were complaining". New elections are announced to be held, and that it "would take some time to prepare for them". The regime then freezes the bank accounts of all women and takes away women's civil rights to own property and to hold down a job[10].

In the TV series[]

The Committee, now in charge of governance, uses the imposed martial law to establish a patriarchal, theocratic regime with its own paramilitary forces (known as Angels and Guardians), and later to take away women's civil rights to own property and to hold down a job.[12]

The new regime eventually proclaimed the establishment of the Republic of Gilead and began to detain and enslave fertile women as "Handmaids".[7] It moved quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society along a new militarized, hierarchical regime of Christianity-inspired social and religious fanaticism among its newly created social classes.

Despite the success of their coup d'état, the Sons of Jacob were unsuccessful in completely eliminating the United States and its administrative structures, who established a government-in-exile in Anchorage, Alaska.[14] The Sons of Jacob were also unsuccessful in completely taking over the entirety of the continental United States (including Texas, much of Chicago, western portions of California, Florida, Vermont, and other unknown areas) with armed resistance to the regime by the American people and the United States Armed Forces taking root in both the western and southern United States as well as a number of areas in SOJ/Gilead-controlled America becoming rebel enclaves (see Map of Gilead).

Present Time[]

In the abandoned Boston Globe facility, June is seen listening to a recording of an interview with an early "Sons of Jacob" member and digging through newspapers cutting out clippings. She pins the clippings to the wall under categories like 'Origins of Gilead', 'Power Structure', 'Militarization' and 'Curtailment of Civil Rights'. Staring at an article under the latter category, she 'tells' the clippings in a voice-over  "You were there all the time but no one noticed you".[1]

The Sons of Jacob is likely outlawed US Government-in-Exile in areas under its control. Members abroad are met with furious protests. However, some of their views have a following in Canada where a gathering of supporters were seen at the end of Testimony protesting the detention and charges against Fred and Serena Waterford.

Known Members[]


  • In an event of catastrophic occurrence that kills the President and many officials (like the above-mentioned terrorist attacks), the designated survivor would become the Acting President of the United States under the Presidential Succession Act (3 U.S.C. §19). It is possible that the designated survivor was a member of the Sons of Jacob, or that they were also sought out and murdered in the attacks.
  • The freezing of women's bank accounts was largely attributed to financial records being stored electronically and labelled by sex.[12]
  • Author Margaret Atwood has constantly been vocal about her basing the book on "events that had already happened around the world". In the early 1980s, a U.S. White Supremacist group known as The Order had been known for criminal activities and for their pro-Aryan agenda. One notable member was the late David Lane. Activities included murder, robbery, racketeering, and terrorism. Their ultimate goal was to overthrow the United States government, and they had secret military training camps designated specifically for this purpose. Though the Order's intentions weren't religious (like those of the Sons of Jacob in the novel), the society they had in mind--were they to have successfully overthrown the government--would have resulted in purification in terms of harsh ethnic persecution and expulsion of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and "race traitor" Whites as well as other minorities living in the United States. Similarly, The Order believed in emphasizing the role of White women within the home while heavily limiting it outside.


Coup d'état[]

  • The Sons Of Jacob appear as those in power right after the "terrorist" massacres. This could mean the "designated survivor" belongs to the organization.

After the takeover[]

According to reports circulating inside Gilead, there are still pockets of resistance in California,[15] Oregon, and Washington (along the West Coast)[16] and Florida,[17][15] as well as the other Southern states and Chicago, Illinois,[14] which are presumably larger than admitted by the regime's own propaganda. This indicates the Sons of Jacob were unsuccessful in taking complete control of the continental United States (see "Theories"). Offred describes the scope of Gilead as currently uncertain. "The edges [...] vary, according to the attacks and counterattacks".[15]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Episode 2.3, "Baggage"
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Handmaid's Tale (Novel), Epilogue, "Historical Notes on The Handmaid's Tale"
  3. XII Jezebels, section 32.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Episode 2.3, Baggage
  5. 5.0 5.1 As suggested by Commander Lawrence's Bookshelf
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Episode 6, "A Woman's Place"
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Episode 8, "Jezebels"
  8. Episode 5, "Faithful"
  9. Following Aunt Lydia's explication, in Unfit
  10. 10.0 10.1 The Handmaid's Tale (Novel), section 28
  11. Episode 2.1, "June"
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Episode 3, "Late"
  13. Episode 7 "The Other Side"
  14. 14.0 14.1 Episode 2, "Birth Day"
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 The Handmaid's Tale (Novel), section 5
  17. Episode 1, "Offred"