Seeing as the duties of a first lady are themselves quite vague, Melania Trump appears to have chosen to put the expectations off for the time being, focusing on her son's needs instead. President-elect Donald Trump's wife has announced that she won't move to Washington just yet so that their 10-year-old son Barron can stay at his private school and finish up the year. Given her decision to remain in Manhattan for the time being, you could be wondering: Is Melania the only first lady to not live in the White House? Whereas the vast majority have packed up and moved on out to D.C., there are still some technical exceptions.
One of these exceptions dates back to 1841 when Anna Harrison, wife to William Henry Harrison, didn't attend her husband's inauguration — you know, the one where his infamously didn't wear a coat, contracted pneumonia, and died a month later? At 65 years old, Anna had chosen to stay home in Ohio rather than make the initial trip to Washington. Apparently, "she had already begun her packing when she learned of her loss," but ended up staying where she was, thus never moving into the White House. Another first lady who didn't live in the White House? Martha Washington. Our nation's original first lady didn't move in because, well, the White House hadn't been built yet.
Besides Anna and Martha, the remainder of the first ladies have moved into the White House, albeit in varying degrees. For instance, Bess Truman frequented her hometown of Independence, Missouri, the locale where she eventually moved back to with Harry Truman. Jackie Kennedy also enjoyed flexibility while maintaining her Pennsylvania Avenue address, choosing to frequent Europe in her travels. Her first jaunt to Paris was in 1947 during her junior year of college. Upon returning home, she wrote: "I came home glad to start in here again but with a love for Europe that I am afraid will never leave me."
Whereas first lady Michelle Obama considered staying in Chicago for the sake of her daughters, she ultimately made the decision to move. "The job of first lady comes without a salary; its duties are not written into the Constitution," notes The Washington Post, so Melania is by no means legally required to uproot Barron or herself. Though first ladies have traditionally opted to move to Washington and devote their time to hosting and/or advocacy, Melania has bought herself some time before committing to the imposed "requirements."