Esther, married to a massively inebriated and henpecked man named Woodrow Anderson, is the arch-nemesis of junkyard owner, Fred Sanford. Esther's younger sister, Elizabeth, was married to Fred, and she and the rest of her family were against the marriage from the very outset. However, she felt that if anything good ever came out of their marriage, it was her nephew, Lamont. She also had other siblings, besides Elizabeth. They were Flossie, Minnie, Ellen, Ethel, Hazel, and several brothers.
Esther was a devout churchgoer, always armed with the Bible, and whenever she went to do battle with Fred, which was often, she was usually aided by some women from her church, or by her drunken husband, Woodrow; or would simply show up at Fred's house quoting the Bible (generally, to a scornful glare, and insults from Fred; paradoxically, Page's convincing portrayal of the "church lady" image of Aunt Esther, lay in direct contrast to the "blue" material of her stand-up act and record albums.) Usually, at any random moment, even in mid-sentence, Esther would throw her hands up and exclaim, "Oh, Glory!" (though it came out as H'ah Glory), even during her most heated arguments with Fred. Her upright image was deflated when it was revealed that in her youth, a man called "Big Money Grip" had sneaked into her bedroom and had sex with her – Grip had mistaken the ugly Esther for the beautiful Elizabeth in the dark, which led Grip to claim he was Lamont's real father.
Fred and Esther always fought over anything and everything. He despised her and the feeling was clearly mutual. She often came over to his house, (often against Fred's wishes) and tried to get him to change his life and his ways. Her words always fell on deaf ears. In fact, Fred would always make sure he knew where she should be, and that usually was "back to your cave, you old bat!" Esther often called Fred a "fish-eyed fool" and a "heathen," and when he upset her, she would tell him to "Watch it, sucka!" She also clashed with Fred's friend, Grady Wilson, of whom she had just as much dislike for as she had for Fred.
In the episode "Aunt Esther and Uncle Woodrow, Pffft!" Grady brazenly interferes in a spat between Esther and Woodrow. He egged on Woodrow, who is normally meek, to stand up to Esther, and causes him to lock her out of the house. (She previously locked him out of the house) At the end, the two reconcile, when Grady's deception is discovered and the entire family confronts him. He called Esther a "battle-ax"; Woodrow a "cream puff" and Flossie and Minnie "The two brides of Frankenstein", which thoroughly angers Lamont who stands up for his family.
Unlike her adversarial relationships with Fred and Grady, she had a loving relationship with Lamont, who loved her too. In fact, Esther had always been his favorite aunt. Lamont's other favorite relatives are his Aunt Ethel, (played by Beah Richards) and his aunts Flossie and Minnie. Aunt Esther thought the world of Lamont (whom she called, "baby"), and wished with all her heart that she could help get him out of the miserable existence his father had made. Her reason was that she felt his late mother wouldn't want him living in a junk shop. Esther thought Lamont was suited for bigger and better things, and would often be in his corner in helping him try to get out from under Fred's thumb. She would help him out in his life, and Lamont, because she and her family were the only real connection he had to his deceased mother and that he loved her dearly, often helped her out and was usually on her side in her disputes with Fred and also with Grady. Also, Flossie and Minnie loved Lamont dearly and considered him their favorite nephew.
She and Woodrow adopted a son, Daniel (played by Eric Laneuville) in Aunt Esther Meets Her Son, then appearing in the episode, The Will. He wasn't seen or heard from until the 1980-1981 spin-off, Sanford, as "Cliff," now being played by Clinton-Derricks Carroll as a college student.
Fred often teased her about her looks, once telling her, "I could stick your face in some dough and make some gorilla cookies!" He would also insult her by using the term, "Ugly" or as he would pronounce it, "Ug-leee!". She would generally respond with wisecracks about his conniving and sometimes downright devious ways. Once, during a public prayer, Esther made reference to Fred, calling him a "Snaggle-toothed jackass."
Despite their constant arguments, some episodes reveal that Esther and Fred actually cared about each other, such as when Fred helped her adopt a child or when Esther became upset when she thought she had hit Fred too hard with her silver-plated Bible. In one episode, Fred also gave Esther $100 he won gambling (leaving himself with $.35) to help her church.
In the final two seasons of Sanford and Son, as well as its failed spinoff Sanford, Esther lived next door to him at the Sanford Arms, the boarding house owned and run by Fred, located on the same land as his junkyard.