Research on the powers or roles of first ladies in authoritarian Arab states suffers from two gaps. First, there are always attempts to homogenize women under which the president’s spouse is simply subsumed within categories such as “Arab women,” “Muslim women,” or “Egyptian women.” Second, literature explaining the dynamics of authoritarian durability has mainly focused on what is institutional, for instance, the army, legislature, and political parties. This article focuses on a single woman as part of the toolbox authoritarian leaders use to maintain power and as part of their political expediency. It uses quantitative and qualitative methods to track the progression of the roles of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne Mubarak, and the manifestations of these roles in the state media throughout Mubarak’s rule (1981–2011). The frame analysis of 1,339 articles found this progression to be linear; that is, Suzanne Mubarak moved from traditional ceremonial roles in the 1980s to policy-oriented ones in the 1990s to political roles, even acting as “copresident” in the 2000s. Through interviews, the data-based findings are contextualized within historically conditioned challenges facing the regime, such as relations with Islamists, the adoption of neoliberal economic policies, and Hosni Mubarak’s frail health in the final years of his rule.

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