Aunts are a class of women in the Republic of 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.
Aunts wear modest, brown clothing. They wear belts with cattle prods attached.
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 Handmaids who disobey. They are the only women in Gilead permitted to read and write (although in some editions of the novel, they are not allowed to read) and have near-absolute power over the Handmaids, making them freer than most women under the regime. 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 women's place', viewings of violent, hardcore pornography and 'therapy' sessions, where women are encouraged to share their darkest secrets and 'sins' and are publicly shamed for them.
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 executions, or Salvagings, reminding everyone of the importance of being pure and Godly, and announcing the condemned's crimes.
- 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.