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You were an adulterer. A dirty slut. But God found a way to make you useful.
~ Aunt Lydia trying to brainwash June.

Aunt Lydia is a major antagonist in Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale and the TV adaptation of the novel.

She is portrayed by Victoria Tennant (who also portrayed Corrine Dollanganger in Flowers in the Attic) in the 1987 film adaptation, and by Ann Dowd (who also portrayed Joan in Hereditary and Ramona Norville in Big Driver) in the Hulu Network adaptation.


Before the Gliead coup, Lydia was a judge of the supreme court, who was imprisoned with other women in a stadium during the establishment of Gilead. After enduring weeks of squalid conditions and solitary confinement, she and a small group of other women are handpicked by Commander Judd and Vidala, a pre-existing supporter of Gilead, to join the Aunts, an elite group of women tasked with creating and overseeing the laws and uniforms governing Gilead's women. The Aunts use Ardua Hall as their headquarters and enjoy certain privileges that include reading "forbidden" texts, such as Cardinal John Henry Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua. In secret, Aunt Lydia despises Gilead and becomes a mole supplying critical information to the Mayday resistance organization.

Aunt Lydia is a high ranking "Aunt", a childless woman who indoctrinates the "Handmaids", the breeding women, in the republic of Gilead. It seems that earlier in the novel, she has been one of the aunts in charge of Offred's facility, along with Aunt Elizabeth. She seems to be one of the most instructive of the aunts. Throughout the novel, Offred is constantly reminded of her teachings and advice.

At one point in the novel, she reveals to Janine how Moria has escaped from the facility. She seems to expect Janine to tell the other handmaids, and they in turn, would no better than to make the same mistake and try to escape.

She eventually seems to leave the facility, and Offred does not see her again for a few years it seems. The next time Offred sees her, it is at a Salvaging execution event, in which Aunt Lydia overseers the execution, and displays the convicted. This is the last time in the novel that she is seen.

Through these actions, it can be assumed that Aunt Lydia intends to use fear to educate and control the handmaids.

In the sequel novel The Testaments', Aunt Lydia helps Mayday resistance force to gather incriminated data to manipulate the Commanders within Glilead government to engage in brutal civil war, the military eventually fed up with Gillead government and instigates a coup combines with the uprising of Mayday and the remnant of the US government, eventually causing the collapse of Gilead. Realizing the restored US government will execute her for war crime, despite being the mole for Mayday, Aunt Lydia commits suicide by overdosing on morphine.