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Expectations for the New First Lady

SCRANTON — Friday’s inauguration means a transition of First Ladies and that transition is set to be as untraditional as the rest of the presidentia...
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SCRANTON -- Friday's inauguration means a transition of First Ladies and that transition is set to be as untraditional as the rest of the presidential election.

America will experience a lot of firsts on Friday, and that includes the first foreign-born First Lady in almost 200 years.

Melania Trump will also be the first third wife to be First Lady.

We spoke with a professor at the University of Scranton who has spent years studying First Ladies and even she doesn't know what to expect.

With the transition from Obama to Trump comes the transition from Mrs. Obama to Mrs. Trump. This presidential election has surprised many political scientists and historians. The role of the new First Lady is proving to be just as untraditional.

"Throughout the presidential campaign, it was just different, the differences have been ongoing for about two years now, and I think they're going to continue. Another thing that's interesting to look at is how willing Americans are to accept those differences," said Jean Harris, a professor at the University of Scranton.

Harris studies women in politics, and says for much of American history before women held elected office, the First Lady was the lady with the most political power.

Harris says more recent First Ladies including Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama have been very public political advisers to their husbands. Melania Trump, Harris thinks, will not fill that role.

"Anyone who is a working adult, if there's problems at work you need a sounding board, someone you can talk to and trust implicitly. That's true for presidents and their spouses as well," said Harris, adding that she thinks Ivanka Trump may play a bigger role than Melania Trump.

Even the experts feel the role of the First Lady could be confused with the role of the First Daughter.

Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka already seems to be filling the First Lady role. If that's the case, the Trump White House won't be the first to have someone other than the president's wife as First Lady.

"The assumption that a First Lady is going to take on this 24/7 job, no pay, and become a public figure and a role model, and all those things that Americans expect, even if she doesn't want to, maybe it's time to break that cycle," said Harris.

Melania Trump is expected to stay in Trump Tower in New York City until the end of her son's school year. Professor Harris says the last First Lady to spend that much time away from the White House was Bess Truman, President Harry Truman's wife.