Melania Trump: How does the first lady compare to her predecessors 65 days in?

While their husbands may be the ones in the Oval Office, first ladies have plenty of power of their own. In addition to playing hostess at one of the most famous residences in the world, America's first ladies have traditionally used their positions to shape policy, champion causes and help spark real change.

Two months into her husband's presidency, though, first lady Melania Trump is signaling her role will be much more subdued.

Click through images of first ladies throughout the years:

Inauguration Style Throughout the Years: It's All About the First Lady's Coat!
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Inauguration Style Throughout the Years: It's All About the First Lady's Coat!

President Dwight Eisenhower and Mrs Mamie Eisenhower, in a fur coat and gorgeous hat, sit  in the open car and wave as they  leave the Capitol in Washington Jan. 21, 1957, just before swinging into Constitution Avenue on traditional inaugural parade route. 

Photo Credit: AP

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, left, with wife, Mamie, son John and his wife, Barbara Jean during the inauguration on January 21, 1957. This First Family looks incredible, with First Lady Mamie in a sparkling gown and daughter-in-law Barbara Jean in a simple but elegant gown.

Photo Credit: CBS/AP


Ah, there she is! U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower shakes hands with the gorgeous Jacqueline Kennedy as she and President-elect John F. Kennedy arrive at the North Portico of the White House in Washington, D.C., on  January 20, 1961.  Jackie is wearing a beautiful coat with matching hat, and fur muff to keep her hands warm.

Photo Credit: AP

On January 20, 1961 newly-elected President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy leave the White House, in Washington, D.C. for a series of visits to inaugural balls. The first lady wore her specially-designed haute couture white silk sheath and matching coat. 

Photo Credit: Henry Burroughs, AP

US President-elect John Fitzgerald Kennedy, US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and US Vice-President Lyndon Johnson are all smiles on January 21, 1961 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. during Kennedy's inauguration ball.  Kennedy was the first Catholic, and the youngest person, to be elected for Democratic party the president of the USA. 

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

A distant view of Lyndon Johnson, shown taking the oath of office, during the inauguration ceremonies in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 1965.  Administering the oath is Chief Justice Earl Warren, right, with First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson in the middle with a stunning red coat and hat.

Photo Credit: AP

President Johnson dances with Mrs. Hubert Humphrey while Vice President Humphrey dances with Lady Bird Johnson at the Inaugural Ball at the Mayflower Hotel. 

Photo Credit: Dan Farrell, NY Daily News/Getty Images

Lady Bird Johnson, center, her daughters Luci Baines, left, and Lynda Bird, right, pose in New York City on Jan. 12, 1961.  They are modeling the gowns they will wear at the inaugural ball on Jan. 20, 1961.

Photo Credit: AP

Richard M. Nixon, right, is sworn in as the 37th president of the United States administered by Chief Justice Earl Warren, left, during inaugural ceremonies in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 20, 1969.  His wife, Pat Nixon, holds the Bible for her husband, sporting a hot pink coat - a welcome pop of color among the rest of her companions.

Photo Credit: AP

All was jolly at the Washington Hilton inaugural ball on January 20, 1969 as President Richard Nixon and his wife, Pat, got together with fellow Republicans. We love the addition of sparkles to First Lady Pat's outfit!

Photo Credit: AP

Gerald R. Ford takes the oath of office as the 38th president of the United States as his wife, Betty, right, stands at his side in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on August 4. 1974.  

Photo Credit: AP 

President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter have one hand for the crowd along Pennsylvania Avenue and one for their daughter Amy. The Carters elected to walk the parade route from the Capitol to the White House following his inauguration in Washington, on Thursday January 20, 1977. We are seriously lusting after the First Lady's coat from this ceremony, the silhouette is simply classic.

Photo Credit: Suzanne Vlamis, AP

President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter are pictured with their daughter Amy at the first of seven Inaugural Balls, and the First Lady looks stunning. We love Amy's cape as well, she looks adorable!

Photo Credit: AP

Feast your eyes on all of these fabulous looks! President Gerald R. Ford and First Lady Betty Ford pose with President-elect Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter (our favorite outfit!), Margaretta Rockefeller and husband Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller, Joan Mondale(LOVE her shoes) and husband Vice President-elect Walter Mondale prior to departing the White House for the inauguration of Jimmy Carter as the 39th President of the United States on  January 20, 1977.

Photo Credit: David Kennerly, Getty Images

U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his wife, first lady Nancy Reagan who is decked out in red, wave to the crowd on the west front of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., after he was sworn in as the nation's 40th president on January 20, 1981.  

Photo Credit: AP

We love the First Lady's high collar on this jacket as President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan leave the White House to attend the first of several inaugural balls, in Washington on January 20, 1981.  

Photo Credit: AP

First Lady Nancy Reagan is a vision in blue as she looks on as President Ronald Reagan is sworn in during ceremonies in the Rotunda beneath the Capitol Dome in Washington on January 21, 1985.  Reagan, forced indoors by a record inaugural freeze, reenacted his oath taking. 

Photo Credit: Ron Edmonds, AP

The colors of the holidays work perfectly on these two First Ladies! Former President Ronald Reagan, his wife Nancy Reagan, new first lady Barbara Bush and her husband President George Bush, walk down the Capitol steps after the inaugural ceremony in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 1989.  

Photo Credit: Scott Applewhite, AP

President George H.W. Bush and wife, Barbara dance at the inaugural ball at the Pension Building in Washington on January 20, 1989.  Barbara is wearing a bright yet deep blue gown in an elegant silhouette.

Photo Credit: Scott Applewhite, AP

President and Mrs. Clinton, wearing a contrasting blue hat with her red suit, wave as they walk down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington on January 20, 1993 during the presidential inaugural parade.  

Photo Credit: Doug Mills, AP 

President Clinton and his wife Hillary share a laugh at the Youth Ball at the Post Office Pavilion on January 20, 1993.  New York fashion designer Oscar de la Renta created a long embroidered tulle gown with matching cape that Mrs. Clinton wore to the 1997 inaugural balls. She looked stunning!

Photo Credit: Bill Waugh, AP

President Clinton, his daughter Chelsea and wife Hillary talk after Clinton was sworn in for his second term by Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist during the 53rd Presidential Inauguration on January 20, 1997. We love the salmon color that Hillary chose for her suit, and that daughter Chelsea was able to join them on stage.

Photo Credit: Doug Mills, AP 

President Clinton in a dapper suit and his wife, first lady Hillary Clinton in an elegant gold gown, dance at the New England Ball on January 20, 1997.

Photo Credit: J. Scott Applewhite, AP

First Lady Laura Bush chose a bright pop of blue jacket to wear alongside President George W. Bush while they review the troops from the steps of the Capitol, with Lynn Cheney choosing a more demure coat as she stands with Vice President Dick Cheney.

Photo Credit: Eric Gay, AP 

First lady Laura Bush in ravishing red, is escorted to the presidential limousine at the South Portico of the White House for an evening of inaugural gala on January 20, 2001.

Photo Credit: Doug Mills, AP

First lady Laura Bush dons red again, waving as she arrives on stage for a Presidential Inaugural Ball at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington on January 20, 2001 in a sparkling gown.  

Photo Credit: Doug Mills, AP 

Fashionable family: President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush depart the North Portico of the White House for the limousine ride to the Capitol where he will take the Oath of Office and begin his second term on January 20, 2005. The couple is accompanied by their two daughters Barbara and Jenna, dressed just as elegantly as their mother and father. 

Photo Credit: J. Scott Applewhite, AP

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are simply stunning as they walk down Pennsylvania Avenue en route to the White House on January 20, 2009 during the inauguration festivities. 

Photo Credit: Doug Mills, AP 

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama dance at the Obama Home States Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center on January 20, 2009. Michelle wore a gorgeous white gown that took our breath away! Earlier that day, Obama was sworn in as the 44th US president.

Photo Credit: Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images


Though the first lady is viewed favorably by52% of Americans — far higher than her husband's latest approval rating — Mrs. Trump has taken a hands-off approach in the Trump administration. Recent reports allege she's been "miserable" in her new role, which she made no public appearances for between Jan. 21 and Feb. 3.

"I expect her to be gracious when acting as first lady, but I would not be surprised if she limits herself to a minimal engagement with the role," Donald Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio told the Chicago Tribune.

Melania Trump: How does the first lady compare to her predecessors 635 days in?
Melania and Donald Trump attend the post-inauguration Freedom Ball on Jan. 20.
Source: Pool/Getty Images

Here's what we know the first lady has been doing — and not doing — since her husband took office, along with how that stacks up with the presidential wives who have come before.

In the White House

So what has Melania Trump been doing in the White House since her husband took office? Not much, considering she hasn't even officially moved in yet.

Trump has been staying in Trump Tower in New York during her husband's presidency while son Barron finishes out the school year, though the pair are expected to move into the White House in June. The Washington Post estimates the two staying in New York comes with a security cost of approximately $200,000 each day, assuming reports that the Secret Service and military would rent space in Trump Tower are accurate.

Though she's currently remaining a New Yorker, the first lady has begun to make plans for the Trump White House. Melania Trump hired Laotian-American interior designer Tham Kannalikham to help revamp the first family's living quarters at the White House. The decorator is likely helping to bring Melania Trump's desired "glam room" to life, which, Vogue reported, will allow the first lady to spend over an hour each day getting ready with "the most perfect lighting scenario."

Melania Trump won't be completely transforming the White House, however: The first lady has pledged to keep the vegetable garden that former first lady Michelle Obama installed during her husband's presidency.

Melania Trump: How does the first lady compare to her predecessors 635 days in?
Melania and Donald Trump leaving the Oval Office in March 2017.
Source: Andrew Harnik/AP

The first lady is also still working on establishing her White House staff. Trump appointed women to two key positions in February, naming Lindsay Reynolds her chief of staff and Anna Cristina Niceta Lloyd as White House social secretary. However, Trump has still yet to fill such integral positions as press secretary and communications director, the New York Times noted earlier this month.

As hostess

One of the first lady's traditional duties has been the White House's official hostess, helping to organize events and entertain guests.

Even though Trump doesn't live in the residence herself, she has been starting to take on the hostess role as her husband's presidency gets underway. The first lady cohosted and attended the Annual Governors Ball on Feb. 26, was the one to announce the reopening of the White House visitors office on Feb. 14 and is expected to join the president for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on April 17. Trump also joined her husband for dinners with Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio and their families.

Melania Trump: How does the first lady compare to her predecessors 635 days in?
The 2017 Governors Ball at the White House.
Source: Chip Somodevilla/AP

The first lady has also made appearances with the wives of foreign heads of state when they've come to the United States. When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to the U.S. with wife Akie Abe, Trump did not greet the prime minister's wife in Washington but later appeared with her at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Florida during a trip to Mar-a-Lago.

Trump made her way to Washington to greet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife Sara, accompanying her on a visit to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.

"As we remember, with deep humility and reverence, the historic plight of slavery which the Jewish and African-American people have known all too well, we rededicate ourselves to those powerful words that both our nations hold dear: 'NEVER AGAIN!'" the first lady said about the museum visit in a statement to CNN.

Championing causes

The first lady hasn't yet made any progress on her campaign pledge to help combat cyberbullying. Instead, Trump has signaled that her advocacy may take a more woman-centered approach.

On March 8, International Women's Day, Trump hosted a women-only luncheon, in which she made a rare speech highlighting the importance of education and equal opportunity. In the speech, CNN reported, Trump highlighted the plight of persecuted women around the globe, calling on attendees to "use our combined resources to help free them from such unthinkable and inhumane circumstances."

Melania Trump: How does the first lady compare to her predecessors 635 days in?
Melania Trump speaks at the White House luncheon celebrating International Women's Day.
Source: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

"I continue to firmly believe that education is the most powerful way to promote and ensure women's rights. Together we will do this not only by striving for gender parity at all levels of education, but also by showing all children, and especially boys, that it is through empathy, respect and kindness that we achieve our collective potential," Trump continued. "Together with UN Women for Peace Association, we can educate and reinforce the importance of tolerance and a society filled with inclusivity regardless of race, gender or culture."

The first lady also championed education in her first solo public appearance on March 2 for Read Across America Day. Trump went to the pediatric wing of Manhattan's New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and read Dr. Seuss' classic story Oh, The Places You'll Go — a reported favorite of hers and Barron's.

How does Melania compare?

Trump's sparse appearances stand in contrast to the first months of other recent first ladies, who have often established a strong presence in the White House and started working toward larger goals by their husbands' third month in office.

Michelle Obama had madpredecessorse remarks on over 20 separate occasions by March 20, 2009, which included a series of trips to federal agencies to expand her public profile. By early April, Obama had even established an international profile, attending the G20 summit and delivering an inspiring speech to a group of London schoolgirls.

The vegetable garden that Trump now pledges to keep, too, was first planted by Obama in March 2009, kickstarting her ongoing commitment to nutrition and healthy eating.

Melania Trump: How does the first lady compare to her predecessors 635 days in?
Michelle Obama launches the White House vegetable garden in March 2009.
Source: Win McNamee/Getty Images

In contrast to Trump's guarded privacy, Obama's earliest days as first lady were also marked by a desire to be accessible to the American people.

"We want entertaining in the White House to feel like America, that we are reminded of all the many facets of our culture," Obama said in a March 2009 Vogue profile, in which she described the White House as a "national classroom."

Obama, Oprah Winfrey said in the Vogue article, was "bringing a sense of connection and accessibility to that position that no nation has ever witnessed."

Though Laura Bush didn't play as overt a role in her husband's presidency, the first lady — a former public school teacher and librarian — had already established her passion for education during her husband's first months and helped to establish the first National Book Festival in 2001.

Former Librarian of Congress Dr. James H. Billington praised Bush's "quiet, persistent and effective way of supporting education and what is best about Americans," at a Library of Congress event at which she spoke on March 20, 2001, noting that "we have much to learn from her example and her determination."

Melania Trump: How does the first lady compare to her predecessors 635 days in?
Laura Bush at the 2015 National Book Festival.
Source: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Perhaps no recent first lady's first months were as prolific as those of Hillary Clinton, however. Within Bill Clinton's first months in office, Hillary Clinton had established herself not only as White House hostess and doting mother and wife but a key member of the president's policy team. Clinton became her husband's primary health care adviser, and a Justice Department lawyer advocating for Clinton described her role as "the functional equivalent of a government employee."

A Feb. 1993 Nightline segment on Clinton highlighted the first lady's massive international reputation and political influence just one month into her husband's first term.

Source: YouTube

"Hillary Clinton is playing a more active, more visible, more influential role as presidential spouse than any previous spouse in the history of this country," Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institute said in the segment.

For Clinton, though, taking on such a large political role while keeping up with her hostess duties was just part of the territory for working mothers.

"I'm still always a little bit amazed at how big an issue this is for people because if they will just stop and think, this is what women do," Clinton told the New York Times about her work-home-life balance in early Feb. 1993. "Eventually, I expect, it won't be a subject for a lot of comment."

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