Well, we don't know where that van takes her in the book, it could be quite similar to what happens on the show, or it could be something completely different.
There is no correlation between getting in the van and it taking Offred to the cabin in Maine. We don't even know if she was ever IN that cabin, the tapes could have been left there at any time and they didn't have to be left by her.
I am not AT ALL sure they are "celebrities" at all. Where did that idea come from? They have been asked to tell their stories, and those are documented. We don't know if they were "public record" or top secret and just kept in Mayday files for years. Even the statue their children and grandchildren erect at the end is vague, no "celebrity" status, just first names of the daughters, no names of the mother or fathers.
It's quite likely that they all remained as incognito as possible even after Gilead collapses, after all, Gilead had those supporters in the Canadian government, and certainly not all of the leaders would be executed, and then there are the Eyes. June, her daughters, and her two Mayday husbands would probably have still been in danger, from those resenting that they helped bring down Gilead.
Did I miss something about fame or celebrity?
The frog boiling part (from the first book, not just the show) was all of the little things that were happening for years. Things described in the show and in the book, abortion being made illegal (June's mom was protesting that) and the rise of the ultra religious right, the back to basics movements, the denigration of women choosing to work instead of "old fashioned values" and honoring men, book burning, etc.
The 3 branches of government being slaughtered, martial law declared, and frozen bank accounts WERE the quick part, or the microwaved part.
So it was BOTH a slow boil for a few years and then the BOOM quick final bombings/takeover. Both were part of it.
It sounded like that torture went on for over a month, possibly two months.
I agree they probably had other women groomed, but how many of those were "wives" rather than people who could do what Aunts would do? Indeed, these were the ultimate misogynists and I can believe that they had their hands rather full with, I dunno, destroying the entire United State's government and taking over everything. Judd's not wanting to waste his or his fellow commanders precious time on "women things" does fit, they had a hell of a lot to do, rebuild a country from the ground up, wars everywhere with those who fought them, handling trade, the world, getting all the letters removed, redesigning everything from grocery stores, to trade, to medical care, hell all of it was redone.
Would they have had more "Vidalias?" Maybe, but given their disdain and dislike for women, perhaps they overestimated some of them, and once the shooting started, and bombs, some of the other "Vidalias" crumpled or were found to be useless or annoying.
Anyway, there are many reasons Judd, initially being stuck with the rather large task "handle the women" wouldn't want to do that, or would realize he wanted to delegate that less than stellar title/role and move on to more lucrative and honorable roles himself. So, he picked out the women he thought had those kinds of skills, did his various tortures, broke them, then plucked the best of those left from the blood.
Win Win for him, and he gets to move on to a different and more respectable role, while at the same time taking credit for the Aunts work.
It all fits for me, and while I see what you mean about "knowing they made it from the beginning" that part didn't bother me at all, it was still a page turner for me... In the beginning I had no idea who they were telling their story to, let alone at what stage of their life they were doing it. Obviously by the boat and rowing part, I knew they made it at least to someplace to WRITE or "tell" all of this, but honestly, that could have been back in Gilead, or years later. So I didn't really know until the very end that they indeed make it to Canada, and are reunited with June.
After that I suspect they, like their mother, remained in hiding for a very long time.