FANDOM


Handmaids are a class of women in the Republic of Gilead. They are perhaps the most important - but also the most oppressed - class of women in Gilead, as they are tasked with breeding and thus supplying Gilead with more children. Fertile women who in some way break the laws of Gilead are forced to become Handmaids - otherwise, they will be sent to the Colonies, where they will almost certainly die. They are assigned to the homes of Commanders and sometimes Angels, where their task is get pregnant by the men, so as to provide them and their Wives (if she is incapable of conceiving) with a child. The novel's main protagonist, Offred, is a Handmaid, as are a few of the secondary characters.

AttireEdit

Handmaids have to wear red - the colour of blood; therefore, life. They wear full-skirted, ankle length red dresses, that cover their figures. The dresses are full sleeved, and they wear flat-heeled, red shoes "to save the spine". When they go outside, the Handmaids must wear red gloves, and they can wear red shawls or cloaks if it is cold or raining outside. Even their umbrellas are red. The only item of clothing they wear that is not red are a pair of white colored "wings", which they wear on their heads to frame and hide their faces. The "white wings" give the Handmaids next to no peripheral vision; they can only see what is directly in front of them. The idea is to "prevent us seeing, but also from being seen".

These women also carry a specific mark or accessory that identifies them as Handmaids: in the novel, their ankles are marked with tattoos; in the film, bar-coded bracelets are permanently attached to their wrists; in the TV series, red tags with serial indentifiers are painfully affixed to their ears.

OriginsEdit

The concept of Handmaids comes from the Biblical story of Rachel and her husband Jacob, in Genesis. Rachel was unable to conceive children, so she suggested that Jacob impregnate Rachel's maid Bilhah and thus get children that way.

Role in societyEdit

Handmaids tale hulu ep 5

A group of Handmaids from the TV series

In Gilead, Handmaids are fertile women, who are supposed to be impregnated by Commanders or Angels whose Wives are infertile, thus providing them with children. Only high ranking men - such as Commanders - are allowed to have a Handmaid assigned to them. Handmaids are 'trained' in their role in the Rachel and Leah, or 'Red' Center, before being sent out on their first assignment. Handmaids are not supposed to have identities; they are forbidden to use their real names and are given new names whenever they are assigned to a new Commander. Their name consists of the word 'of', coupled with the first name of their Commander; for example 'of-Fred' = Offred or 'of-Glen' = Ofglen.

The novel does not mention the process and criteria for matching Handmaids and Commanders, although in the TV series, it is revealed that a household can refuse an undesirable Handmaid and that the women who had produced healthy babies are coveted items, and couples may resort to small bribery of Aunts to ensure the presence of this particular Handmaid at their household in the future.

Handmaids have three chances to get pregnant in three different households during two year assignments. If, after the third time, they are not able to produce a living, healthy baby, they will be declared Unwomen and sent off to the Colonies. Handmaids that become infertile or reach a certain age without having ever conceived are also sent to the Colonies, as are women who refuse to become Handmaids.

Handmaids usually live with the couple they are assigned to, in a spare room, though they occasionally go to sleep at the Red Center, where they live when they have not been assigned to anyone. They are sometimes required to help around the house, taking part in prayer time, shopping and helping to cook, but the rest of the time, they mostly stick to their rooms, having little else to do. They are required to take a walk once a day, to keep their abdominal muscles functioning. Handmaids are not allowed to be alone except when they bathe, use the bathroom, or sleep. When they go out in public, they are always accompanied by another Handmaid, and occasionally a Guardian, to protect pregnant Handmaids.

If a Handmaid conceives, then she is venerated (and envied) by many other women. She no longer has to take the walk or do chores; it is in fact considered risky for pregnant Handmaids to be out in public, in case something happens to the baby, or she is attacked by jealous women. Once a Handmaid gives birth, provided the baby is healthy, then it will immediately be given to the Wife of the Commander they are assigned to, who receives all the credit for the Handmaid's hard work. The Handmaid is generally ignored or overlooked, although she may be comforted or congratulated by her fellow Handmaids. Handmaids are allowed to stay with their babies for a few weeks, breastfeeding them, but after they are weaned, the Handmaids are forced to leave the household and are assigned to a new Commander. In the TV series, it is revealed that a Wife may be opposite to the presence of the Handmaid at the household after the baby is born; in that case, the Handmaid will go back to the Red Center and resort to a breast pumping machine to extract the needed milk. The babies they give birth to are not regarded as 'theirs' but rather their Commander's and his Wife's. It is likely that they never see their children again. The only comfort is that Handmaids who have successfully given birth to healthy children will never be declared Unwomen nor sent to the Colonies (unless, of course, they break the laws of Gilead).

Gilead forces fertile women into becoming Handmaids on the basis of both gender-based and religious-based crimes. June, for instance, relates that she was forced to become a handmaid because Gilead outlawed divorce and invalidated any marriages in which one of the partners was divorced; she was thus deemed to be an adulterer because her husband, Luke, divorced his first wife to marry her. On the other hand, Emily mentions in "Offred"  that she "got caught at the airport", with her flashbacks in "Unwomen" suggesting that her (later deemed illegal) marriage to a woman was the reason she was forced to become a Handmaid. In "Baggage", an Econowife, Heather, tells June that fertile Econopeople are threatened with being forced to become Handmaids if they break Gilead's laws.

Known HandmaidsEdit

Below is a list of 60 Handmaids that have been mentioned or portrayed in either the novel, the movie or the TV series. Please note that the 31 Handmaids slain at the new Rachel and Leah Center have yet to be completely indentified (some of their patronymic names were listed during the mass funeral and a few real names were mentioned by Rachel Tapping in a Canadian conference, meaning that some of the patronymic names listed below might correspond to some of the real names mentioned by Tapping). Characters that have yet to be seen after the bombing but have not been definitively identified as deceased will be listed as "unknown" until this scenario changes.

Patronymic name Real name History Status Appearances Note
Ofben Joanna Grant One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Ofcharles Unknown Executed during a Salvaging by hanging. Deceased Novel
Ofcolin Unknown One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Ofduncan Lindsay Hayes One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Ofedward Unknown One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Oferic Brianna Ofsamuel's shopping partner. Alive; active TV series
Offred (first) Unknown Commited suicide by hanging herself from the chandelier in her room. Deceased Novel
Film
TV series
Offred (second) June Osbourne
Kate
The main character of The Handmaid's Tale. Unknown (novel)
Alive; fled (film)
Alive; active (TV series)
Novel
Film
TV series
Ofglen (first)
Ofsteven
Ofroy
Ofjoseph
Emily Offred's shopping partner; connected to Mayday. Deceased (novel)
Unknown (film)
Alive; active (TV series)
Novel
Film
TV series
Ofglen (second) Lillie Fuller Replaces the original Ofglen; has a different background in the TV series. Alive; active (novel, film)
Deceased (TV series)
Novel
TV series
Ofhal Patricia Frank One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Ofjohn Unknown A damaged Handmaid hidden from the Mexican delegation; killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Ofleo Nora Ford One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Oflyle Unknown One of the damaged Handmaids hidden from the Mexican delegation; unseen after the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Unknown TV series Unseen character
Ofmyles Unknown Unseen after the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Unknown TV series
Ofraymond Unknown One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Ofrobert Alma Associated to Mayday in the TV series. Alive; active Novel
TV series
Ofryan Mae Cohen One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Ofsamuel Dolores Oferic's shopping partner in the TV series. Alive; active Novel
TV series
Ofthomas Unknown One of the damaged Handmaids hidden from the Mexican delegation; unseen after the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Unknown TV series Unseen character
Oftim Unknown One of the damaged Handmaids hidden from the Mexican delegation; unseen after the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Unknown TV series Unseen character
Ofwarren
Ofdaniel
Janine A mentally unstable Handmaid. Alive; active Novel
Film
TV series
Ofwayne Unknown Briefly mentioned as a possibly pregnant Handmaid. Alive; active Novel
Ofwyatt Unknown Imprisoned in the Rachel and Leah Center; pregnant when last seen. Unknown TV series
Ofzachary Unknown Unseen after the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Unknown TV series
Ofzev Cheryl Gardini One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Unknown TV series Unseen character
None Erin Escaped to Canada before being assigned to a household. Alive; defected TV series
None Moira One of the only Handmaids that managed to escape the Rachel and Leah Center. Alive; defected Novel
Film
TV series
Unknown Adriana Hall One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Unknown Alice Whispers her name during the night at the Rachel and Leah Center. Alive; active Film Unseen character
Unknown Alison Records her story on a letter for Mayday. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Unknown Aubrey Records her story on a letter for Mayday. Unknown TV series Unseen character
Unknown Ashley Records her story on a letter for Mayday after fleeing to Jezebel's. Unknown; defected TV series Unseen character
Unknown Cara Whispers her name during the night at the Rachel and Leah Center. Alive; active Film Unseen character
Unknown Chloe Washington One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Unknown Deirdre Whispers her name to other Handmaids at the market. Alive; active TV series Unseen character
Unknown Erin Not the same Erin that defected; whispers her name to other Handmaids at the market. Alive; active TV series Unseen character
Unknown Gabby Offred's friend from the Rachel and Leah Center; had a miscarriage. Unknown TV series Unseen character
Unknown Gabriela Records her story on a letter for Mayday. Unknown TV series Unseen character
Unknown Greer Ladestro Records her story on a letter for Mayday. Unknown TV series Unseen character
Unknown Helen Campbell One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Unknown Isabella Lopez One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Unknown Jada King One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Unknown Jennifer Briggs One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Unknown Jessica Jerry Records her story on a letter for Mayday. Unknown TV series Unseen character
Unknown Joanna Whispers her name during the night at the Rachel and Leah Center. Alive; active Film Unseen character
Unknown Julie Whispers her name during the night at the Rachel and Leah Center. Alive; active Film Unseen character
Unknown June In the film, June is a different Handmaid from Offred. Executed during a Salvaging by hanging. Deceased Film
Unknown Kathleen Whispers her name during the night at the Rachel and Leah Center. Alive; active Film Unseen character
Unknown Maria Corrente Records her story on a letter for Mayday. Unknown TV series Unseen character
Unknown Maria Navarro Records her story on a letter for Mayday. Unknown TV series Unseen character
Unknown Marilyn Whispers her name to other Handmaids at the market. Alive; active TV series Unseen character
Unknown Megan Young One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character
Unknown Patricia Ruth Records her story on a letter for Mayday. Unknown TV series Unseen character
Unknown Riley Records her story on a letter for Mayday. Unknown TV series Unseen character
Unknown Robin Cook Records her story on a letter for Mayday. Unknown TV series Unseen character
Unknown Sara Whispers her name to other Handmaids at the market. Alive; active TV series Unseen character
Unknown Stephanie Whispers her name during the night at the Rachel and Leah Center. Alive; active Film Unseen character
Unknown Susan Whispers her name during the night at the Rachel and Leah Center. Alive; active Film Unseen character
Unknown Tiana Moore One of the 31 Handmaids killed at the new Rachel and Leah Center attack. Deceased TV series Unseen character

References Edit