Born in Harmony, Gwen Hotchkiss grew up in a small town outside of Harmony (in a different state) as the only child of Jonathan and Rebecca Hotchkiss. Her father was not subtle in showing his disappointment over the fact that his only child was a girl, and, as a result, Gwen spent most of her life trying to prove to him that she was just as good as the son that he never had.
At the age of twelve, Gwen met Ethan Crane at a mixer that their boarding schools had, and became fast friends, soon boyfriend and girlfriend. They later went on to attend the same prestigious high school, though they attended separate colleges.
First engagement, 1999—2000
Gwen and Ethan move to Harmony, Ethan's hometown, in 1999 following Ethan's graduation from law school earlier that year. Ethan soon proposes to Gwen, but she refuses him, fearing that he is only asking her to marry him due to family pressure and that he does not love her as deeply as she loves him. Eventually, however, Ethan proposes again; Gwen's fears satiated, she accepts.
Gwen enlists her mother-in-law-to-be's personal assistant, and the Cranes' head housekeeper's daughter, Theresa, to help her plan her wedding after seeing Theresa's sketches for a wedding gown that she assumed was meant for her. Due to the nature of Gwen's work as a businesswoman, she is forced to leave Harmony for periods of time and has Theresa take over the task of wedding planning while she is away. Little did she know that the wedding planner was already in love with her fiance and plotted to make sure that the wedding did not happen. After a time, however, Gwen begins to fear that Ethan and Theresa are falling in love, and her suspicions seem to be confirmed when Ethan leaves her side in the frigid Atlantic waters to rescue Theresa after Harmony High School's prom boat capsizes in July 2000. Gwen's mother, Rebecca, arrives in town to help Gwen with the wedding, and she fuels Gwen's fears and fires Theresa.
All of Gwen's worst fears become a reality when Ethan tells Gwen that he is in love with Theresa and postpones their nuptials the night before their wedding. Gwen is furious and arrives at Theresa's home to confront her. She comes across Theresa's alter of Ethan and realizes that the eighteen-year-old has been obsessed with Ethan for years. After composing herself, Gwen suggests that Ethan date both women so that he can decide which he truly wants to marry, believing that Ethan will quickly realize that the working-class Theresa is a gold digger and will make an unsuitable Crane wife. Gwen's suggestion backfires, however, when Ethan proposes to Theresa at midnight mass on Christmas. Gwen is heartbroken, and Rebecca vows revenge against Theresa.
Rebecca discovers the files on Theresa's laptop that she discovered in her mother's house and scanned which proved that Ethan's mother, Ivy, had an adulterous affair with her ex-lover, Sam Bennett, on the night of her wedding to Julian, thus conceiving Ethan. Theresa was planning on showing Ethan the information, releasing him from any pressure to marry "within his class". Pilar forbid Theresa to tell Ethan the truth, and insisted she delete the file, but not before Gwen and Rebecca stumbled across it. With Gwen collaboratively distracting Ivy and Theresa, Rebecca anonymously send the information to the tabloid Daily Private Lives, believing that Theresa will not want to marry Ethan once his true, middle-class paternity is known (as Rebecca at initially did not realize that the computer belonged to Theresa until Gwen told her). The truth comes out at Ethan and Theresa's engagement party in February 2001, and Gwen is surprised to find that Theresa stays with Ethan even after he is disowned. Gwen also realized that Theresa lied to Ethan by telling him that she had no knowledge of his paternity prior to the tabloid story.
Rebecca convinces Gwen to continue with her plan for revenge, however, and Gwen disguises her voice and calls the tabloid, telling them that Theresa, who knew of Ethan's paternity for months, had been their informant. Ivy learns of the news and crashes her car into St. Margaret Mary's, disrupting Ethan and Theresa's nuptials. Theresa admits to having known of Ethan's paternity but denies tipping off the tabloids; Ethan is initially furious that she never told him the truth, but eventually forgives her.
Ultimately, it is Theresa's secrets and lies — first that she knew of Ethan's paternity, then that she drunkenly married Julian in Bermuda, and, finally, that she slept with Julian and became pregnant with his child — that tear her and Ethan apart in January 2002. Gwen sees the pain that Theresa has put Ethan through and vows to be there for him as a friend.
Revival of her relationship with Ethan, 2002—2007
Marriage and Sarah's stillbirth, 2002—2003
Unable to trust Theresa, Ethan and Gwen grow close again, and eventually begin dating once more. However, after Theresa gives birth to Julian's son, whom she names Ethan Gwen begins to fear that Ethan will go back to Theresa after she continues to manipulate Ethan. Theresa uses her son as a method for Ethan to stay close to her by pretending to not know how to care for a child. Gwen and Rebecca plot to drug Theresa to stop her from pursuing Ethan, but Theresa gets wise to them and switches the cups so that Gwen drinks the drugged tea. As for "helping" Theresa with her baby, Gwen sees Ethan willingly step in to help and senses that he is falling for her plots. Much to Gwen's chagrin, a soul-searching Ethan makes a "final decision", announces that once again the woman he wants to marry is Theresa. Gwen then starts to makes plans to move to New York City to move on with her life. Gwen soon learns that she is pregnant with Ethan's child and happily shares her news with Ethan, who reneges on his plans to marry Theresa and instead proposes to Gwen. Gwen insists that he not marry her simply for their child's sake, but Ethan convinces her that he genuinely wants to be with her, and she accepts his proposal. Theresa continues to plot and interferr with Ethan and Gwen's relationship but despite Theresa's machinations, the couple are married on December 19, 2002.
When Gwen begins experiencing problems with her pregnancy, she and Ethan fly to Los Angeles to seek the expertise of prenatal specialist Dr. Abel. Unbeknownst to them, however, Theresa also flies to LA to visit friends Chad and Whitney, unaware that the Winthrops (Gwen and Ethan) are there. When Ethan discovers that Theresa is also in California, he ultimately decides not to tell Gwen due to Theresa insistence. Behind Gwen's back, Theresa continues to pursue Ethan and ultimately sets a plot into motion which leads to a tragic accident. Theresa uses Ethan's brother Fox to rile up Ethan. Upset at seeing Theresa dirty dancing with his brother, he laters kisses Theresa on the beach, but later regrets his actions. Gwen, however, sees television news footage of Ethan and Theresa kissing on the beach. Horrified, Gwen leaves the hospital to confront the two; by the time she reaches the Crane apartment complex, however, she has convinced herself that she blew things out of proportion and decides to spend the night with Ethan before returning to the hospital. When she finds Theresa at the pool, though, she becomes furious, and the two women engage in a confrontation that ultimately results in Gwen being rushed to the hospital in full labor. There, Dr. Abel informs Ethan that Gwen and the baby are both in distress and tells him that he must make a decision — he must choose between the life of his wife and the life of his unborn child. Theresa tries to convince Ethan to pick the baby to live as this is what the church has taught her. Ethan tells the doctors to save Gwen, and the couple's daughter is stillborn on October 7, 2003.
When Gwen wakes up, she finds her daughter dead in a bassinet and is devastated. She and Ethan have their baby posthumously baptized as Sarah, but when Ethan tries to reach out to Gwen, she condemns him and Theresa, throwing her wedding ring at him and telling him that she wants nothing more to do with him. Ethan finally tells Theresa to leave him alone. In Harmony, Ethan and Gwen plan Sarah's funeral, and when Ethan makes a promise on their daughter's coffin that he will never leave Gwen to be with Theresa again, Gwen takes him back and begins to forgive him for his part in Sarah's death.
Adoption of Little Ethan and surrogacy, 2004
Ethan and Gwen are devastated to learn that the fight in LA and Sarah's subsequent stillbirth has rendered Gwen infertile. Desperate for Revenge Rebecca plots to adopt Little Ethan, Theresa's son and Julian Crane's son. With Gwen's reluctant cooperation, Rebecca has the Lopez-Fitzgerald family fired from their jobs and also has them kicked out of their home, which Theresa built with Crane money while married to Julian; though Gwen hates hurting Theresa's family, she nor Ethan stop Rebecca's plan. After Rebecca calls Child Protective Services on Theresa and has Little Ethan placed in her and Julian's custody, Theresa officially loses custody of Little Ethan for one year in March 2004. However, after the judge sees Theresa attack Gwen outside the courtroom, he severs Theresa's parental rights permanently. In April, Gwen and Ethan adopt Little Ethan, renaming him Ethan Winthrop, Jr., and also begin making plans to hire a surrogate mother to carry their own biological child for them.
Desperate to regain custody of her son after being tricked into thinking her son's life was in danger, Theresa drugs Ethan and Gwen's intended surrogate, a woman named Heather Downs, and has herself implanted with Ethan and Gwen's embryo in an effort to use their child as a means of extortion. Ethan and Gwen are furious, but they eventually agree to drop their objection to Theresa's pregnancy when they discover that Gwen's eggs are damaged and that the child that Theresa is carrying is their only chance at biological parenthood. After some heavy bleeding, Theresa fears that she lost her bargening chip and set's into motion a plot to rape Ethan. During the Harmony Founders Day festival, Theresa tells a waiter to continue to give Ethan alcohol. After the festival, Gwen is called on a job interview in Boston. The interview was a setup to get Gwen away from Ethan that evening, so she can be alone with him. Theresa sneaks into the mansion with the her of her mother who gives her the access codes to the house. She then goes upstairs where she spikes Ethan's drink with a date rape drug. After Ethan is passed out, she pretends to be Gwen by wearing her cloths and putting on her purfume. Ethan has sex with Theresa, while thinking she is Gwen. Theresa believes she is pregnant once again with Ethan's child. The three sign a contract as to their intentions for the welfare of the children, and Theresa moves into the mansion for the duration of her pregnancy.
Theresa is eventually discovered to be carrying twins, thrilling Gwen. Her joy soon turns to sorrow, however, when the doctors decide that Theresa cannot carry both babies to term. Though Theresa initially refuses to abort one of the babies, Ethan and Gwen's pleas eventually change her mind, and she allows the doctors abort the weaker child, a boy that Ethan and Gwen had planned to name Nathan, on November 8, 2004. It is less than a month later, however, when Theresa goes into premature labor and, at only twenty-six weeks gestation, gives birth to a baby girl, whom the Winthrops plan to name Ashley, on December 2, 2004.
Jane's birth and custody battles, 2004—2005
Gwen is terrified for her newborn daughter and is eager to see her in the NICU. However, she is horrified to learn that Theresa drugged and raped Ethan after mistakenly believing that she miscarried Ethan and Gwen's child, and that the baby girl's biological mother could be either Theresa or Gwen. DNA testing reveals Ethan and Theresa to be the little girl's biological parents, and a devastated Gwen, after a reaction to a sedative an on-call doctor gives her, loses touch with reality and stabs Theresa in the back with a scalpel.
Gwen, despite her insanity, is arrested and sent to jail for attempted murder. Ethan, understanding that his wife is in need of psychiatric assistance, goes to Theresa and begs her to drop the charges; she agrees, but changes her mind after finding out that Gwen's attack has left her paralyzed and realizes that she can then be Ethan's mistress while Gwen is out of the picture. Gwen remains in jail, where she hallucinates of a life with Ethan and their three children - Sarah, Nathan, and Ashley. Later, after "hearing" her newborn daughter's cries, Gwen cuts her wrists with shards of a mirror so that she can be taken to the hospital and kill Theresa.
At the hospital, Gwen again attacks Theresa for trying to steal her baby and is furious when Theresa declares that the baby, whom she has named Jane, is her daughter. Gwen is recaptured, but, after being left alone, kidnaps Jane and drives to one of the Crane cabins in Ethan's car. Rebecca, desperate to keep her daughter out of jail, arranges to get Gwen and Jane, whom Gwen refers to as Ashley, onto one of the Crane jets. Unbeknownst to Rebecca, however, that particular Crane jet is arranged to carry Katherine to a top-secret Crane compound somewhere in the Atlantic.
At the compound, Katherine, Gwen, Jane, and later Fox, who launched an attempt to rescue Jane, are miserably held captive by the evil Alistair Crane until Ethan and Theresa arrive to rescue the four. The six returned to Harmony, where Gwen regains touch with reality. She is saddened, however, to learn that she and Ethan have lost custody of Little Ethan thanks to a loophole in Theresa's surrogacy contract. She wants Ethan to sue for custody of Jane as they had planned, but Ethan refuses in order to protect Gwen from incarceration, creating a truce between the two women: Theresa will not press charges against Gwen if Ethan and Gwen do not sue for custody of Jane. He warns Theresa, though, that, if she continues her vendetta against his wife, he will take Jane from her as originally planned.
Theresa breaks the truce and presses charges against Gwen, despite Ethan's threats to sue for custody of Jane. Ethan wins Gwen's case, however, by proving that his wife had a reaction to the combination of a sedative given to her by one of the on-call doctors and other medication that she was taking, and he and Gwen immediately sue for custody of Jane. The judge, disgusted by the method in which Jane was conceived, rules in favor of Ethan and Gwen, and the couple are given temporary custody of the baby.
Versus Mrs. Alistair Crane, 2005—2007
Ethan, Gwen, and Jane live somewhat peacefully in the mansion until Theresa allies herself with Alistair and moves in as his guest. Ethan and Gwen decide that they will move out of Ethan's childhood home, taking Jane with them, but Alistair refuses to allow this, threatening to sever Ethan's contract with Crane Industries and freeze all of their accounts held in Crane-owned banks. Frustrated with Theresa, Gwen is shocked to realize that Alistair is repeatedly raping her, yet plots to keep Ethan from being able to save her. Gwen later tries to convince Ethan that Theresa is lying about being raped. The situation grows even more dire when Theresa marries Alistair and, upon discovering the magnitude of her miscalculation, repeatedly attempts to kill him, finally poisoning his guacamole. In a true twist of fate, Ethan winds up ingesting the laced dip instead, and falls into a coma.
Gwen is faced with the most difficult decision of her life when Dr. Russell informs her that Ethan's test results show that he is in a permanent vegetative and will never regain consciousness. After locating Ethan's living will, Gwen decides to terminate her husband's life support. Receiving the support of Ethan's family, Gwen prepares to remove Ethan from life support — until she discoveres that Theresa, assisted by an unknown man, has kidnapped Ethan. The police find the two at one of the Crane cabins weeks later, and Gwen is horrified to discover that Ethan's half-brother, Noah, and half-sister, Fancy, aided Theresa. The three are arrested, and the still-comatose Ethan and Gwen return to the hospital. Gwen is prepared to remove Ethan from life support on Christmas Eve but ultimately decides to postpone the event so that Jane will be able to enjoy the Christmas season in the future. While Gwen and Jane are at midnight mass, Ethan emerges from his coma and arrives at the church, much to the overwhelming joy of his entire family.
Desperate to save his marriage and escape from Theresa, Ethan requests a transfer at Crane Industries at Gwen's behest, and Julian arranges for Ethan, Gwen, and Jane to move to New Delhi, India. The three are ready to take off when Theresa reveals that the comatose Alistair left her in charge of Crane Industries, and she terminates Ethan's transfer. The Winthrops, penniless after Theresa blacklists Ethan and freezes their Crane-owned bank accounts, move to Grace Bennett's Bed and Breakfast. With Ethan unable to find work, Gwen begins searching for a job and eventually secures a position with the exclusive Collier & Company. Ethan and Gwen agree that Gwen will return to work while Ethan will become a stay-at-home father for the remainder of his contract with Crane, unaware that Theresa bribed Mr. Collier to hire her and keep her busy with work so that she could make a move on Ethan.
Ethan and Theresa fly to Rome in May 2006 to rescue their endangered sisters, Jessica Bennett and Paloma Lopez-Fitzgerald, and when Gwen learns that JT Cornell, the editor of Daily Private Lives, is also there, she becomes panicked and fears that Ethan will learn the truth about the tabloid scheme. Gwen flies to Rome and destroys evidence of her duplicity, and when Theresa suddenly announces that she is giving up on Ethan, Gwen is thrilled.
Upon returning to Harmony, Collier fires Gwen, and Ethan returns to work at Crane. Gwen is thrilled when Theresa begins dating Jared Casey, but becomes worried when Ethan becomes jealous of Jared. Unbeknownst to Gwen, Ethan and Theresa begin having an affair behind their partners' backs in late 2006. After realizing that Ethan is having a dream about Theresa, she wakes him up and throws her wedding ring at him.
Separation and divorce from Ethan, 2007
The last straw for Gwen is when she discovers Theresa and Ethan in bed together in late January 2007. Furious, Gwen leaves him, telling him that it is clear he will always love Theresa and insisting that she deserves someone who loves only her. Ethan, in a effort to preserve his marriage, tells her that it will violate their custody agreement if she takes Jane; to prove she is serious about leaving, Gwen smashes her wedding ring with a hammer and bids her beloved stepdaughter a heartbreaking goodbye. Gwen leaves town on January 25, 2007. Later, on February 23, Gwen sends Ethan a petition for divorce.
In May 2007, Gwen is seen several times at an undisclosed location, on one occasion mysteriously tied to a bed. Over the phone, she tells her mother and Ethan that she isn't coming back to Harmony and that she has a "new man in [her] life now". After a period of suspense, Gwen returns to Harmony on June 21, ostensibly to finalize her divorce and see Jane. Though admitting to herself and Rebecca that she is still in love with Ethan, she refuses to chase after a man who doesn't want her, and she and Ethan are officially divorced on July 20.
Gwen and Rebecca find JT's USB stick and discover that Little Ethan is Ethan's biological son and not Julian's. When they realize that Theresa has known for over a year, they decide to reveal Theresa's deception at Ethan and Theresa's wedding. However, before they can act, Chad locks Gwen and Rebecca in a bathroom, and Ethan and Theresa leave for their honeymoon before Gwen can expose her rival. The women follow the newlyweds to their honeymoon suite and find a very-much-alive Alistair, who is fuming over the fact that Theresa, to whom he was still legally married, had tricked him into making Ethan's son his heir. Alistair sends poisoned strawberries into Ethan and Theresa's suite, intending for Theresa to eat them and die, but Ethan eats them instead and again falls into a coma. Gwen and Rebecca, who had known about Alistair's plan to kill Theresa, were furious that Theresa hadn't died, and that Ethan could die next.
Though Gwen wants to stay by Ethan, finally admitting to her mother that she still loves Ethan, she leaves when she receives word that her "new man" is ill. She rushes away to be with him, despite Rebecca's protests. She returns on September 7 and introduces Ethan and Theresa, who has told Ethan that he has a son, to her "new man": a baby boy, her son with Ethan, later named Jonathan.
Jonathan and Juanita Vasquez plot, 2007—2008
Upon to returning to Harmony with Jonathan, Gwen and Ethan begin to bond over the baby. In order to keep Ethan away from Theresa, Gwen threatens to reveal Theresa's mother Pilar's location to her mortal enemy, Juanita Vasquez, who seeks to murder the Lopez-Fitzgerald family, if Theresa doesn't stay away from Ethan, or if she tells Ethan the truth about Little Ethan being his son. The situation becomes dire, however, when baby Jonathan needs a partial liver transplant. When his half-sister, Jane, is unable to be a donor, Jonathan's only hope is Little Ethan. Gwen is unable to deal with the possibility that she might lose a third child and convinces herself that holistic treatments will save her son's life; when she finally grasps the seriousness of the situation and decides to tell Ethan about Little Ethan, Rebecca drugs her to prevent her from telling Ethan.
Later, Theresa decides to try to save Gwen's son, but Gwen is desperate to prevent Ethan from learning that Little Ethan is his real son. Gwen decides that keeping the truth from Ethan is more important than her son's life, and threatens to have Theresa's family assassinated if Theresa gets Little Ethan tested for donor viability.
Unable to deal with the possibility of Gwen's child dying, Theresa risks her own son's life, and anonymously donates part of Little Ethan's liver, and Jonathan is saved.
To prevent Ethan from finding out that Little Ethan was Jonathan's donor, Theresa takes her son to one of the Crane cabins to recuperate; Ethan and Gwen follow her, and Gwen convinces Ethan that Theresa has another man in the other room. Ethan and Theresa split up, as Theresa cannot deny anything without confessing that Little Ethan is Ethan's son, which would result in Gwen and Rebecca ensuring her family's murder. She reveals that, because she never informed Ethan of her pregnancy, she and Ethan are still legally married, and they agree to stay married for Jonathan's sake.
Theresa heads down to Mexico to eliminate her threat, which results in Theresa being presumed dead in Mexico. When Juanita is caught, Gwen helps her escape so that she can continue to blackmail a Pilar. Theresa is forced to allow everyone to think she is dead to protect her family and her children from being slaughtered. Gwen convinces Ethan to try to move on and form a family with her, Jane, and Jonathan.
Gwen, Rebecca, and Ivy hire a new nanny for the kids, Gertrude (actually a very much live Theresa in disguise). While Gwen and Ethan prepare to renew their vows, Theresa (as Getrude) schemes to tear them apart. Gwen also begins a rivalry with Little Ethan, who knows that his mother is Gertrude, and causes mischief for Gwen in order to make her mad and sour her in front of Ethan. Gwen and Rebecca eventually do discover that Theresa is alive; Gwen also realizes that Theresa is Gertrude, but does not expose her.
Despite several setbacks, Gwen and Ethan have their vow renewal ceremony. At the last minute, Theresa is revealed alive and informs Ethan and the wedding guests about Juanita Vasquez and her secret plan to cause the church to explode with everyone in it. Juanita is finally captured by Sam, Luis, and Miguel, and Ethan defuses her bomb. Theresa confronts her rival with the information that she used to blackmail her and her mother and brings up the infamous tabloid scandal again to everyone. Gwen denies her involvement and insists that there is no proof of her misdeeds. However, with the revelation of Little Ethan's paternity and a complete confession on videotape (including both the blackmail scheme against the Lopez-Fitzgeralds, the fabrication about the "other man in the bedroom", and the tabloid scheme), Gwen and her mother are arrested. During their arrest, Rebecca accidentally reveals to everyone that Gwen and Ethan's marriage of six years is in fact invalid; following Ethan and Gwen's terminated engagement in 2000, Gwen and Rebecca went to Las Vegas, Nevada, where Gwen became intoxicated and was married to an unknown man by an Asian Elvis impersonator. After being teleported to jail by Kay's magic, Gwen and her mother try to stop Ethan and Theresa's wedding in a final attempt to have a happy ending. Father Lonigan tells them they can have a happy ending if they decide to be good instead of bad. They both say they are willing to change. Though Ethan and Theresa are married, a handsome police officer shows up and asks Gwen out on a date. To her delight, she accepts her "Happy Ending"!
^Seen on-air from September 25, 2003, through September 29, 2003.
^Seen on-air on October 7, 2003, and October 8, 2003.
^Seen on-air on March 22, 2004, and March 23, 2004.