In the early days of the Trump White House, the question frequently lobbed about by Washington's chattering class was, "Where is Melania?"

Now, though, she is providing an answer, taking on a public schedule that is beginning to resemble those of her predecessors.

This week, the first lady flew with her husband to Florida, where they surveyed the wreckage left by Hurricane Irma and handed out FEMA lunches. She returned to Washington that same Thursday evening to host a reception for the White House Historical Association, a venerable group founded by Jackie Kennedy to maintain and protect the executive mansion. The event included a sit-down dinner where President Trump introduced his wife as "the star of the Trump family."

On Friday afternoon, she traveled to Joint Base Andrews in suburban Maryland to visit a youth center in a show of support for military families. Then her husband boarded Air Force One for a weekend at their New Jersey golf resort while the first lady remained in Washington, according to a pool report.

"She is more visible and starting to do some of the more conventional first lady things," said Katherine Jellison, a professor of history at Ohio University who studies first ladies.

The Trumps at the reception for the White House Historical Association on Thursday. (Alex Wong / Pool/EPA-EFE)

Still, "we don't see her rushing in to do some public press conference about her cyberbullying project" — a cause Mrs. Trump said during the campaign she hoped to champion.

From the start, Melania Trump has said she would take her own time filling out the contours of the role. She delayed her move to the White House but accompanied her husband overseas during his first diplomatic outings. She had a leisurely summer with few public events but is revving up her schedule and frequently sharing "thoughts and prayers" on her Twitter feed.

Behind the scenes, she has taken an interest in the federal government's efforts to assist families devastated by recent hurricanes, attending some FEMA meetings. At the reception Thursday, she told guests she is making her voice heard on disaster-relief issues.

The first lady's public persona is still coming into focus, though. Her visit to the youth center Friday was a classic first lady photo op of the sort pioneered by Lady Bird Johnson, who went out to read to schoolchildren to promote the Johnson administration's creation of the Head Start program.

With a group of reporters observing behind a red rope, Mrs. Trump sat at a table as children played with Lego bricks and made paper airplanes with a group of older children and launched a few of the planes herself. (Elsewhere on the base, her husband was observing an air fleet demonstration.)

"Oh, I brought you some crayons," she said softly to a small table of elementary school students. "You want to color with me?"

For Mrs. Trump, an increase in such community-oriented events could help shift the public discussion about her, which until now has largely focused on the former model's clothing choices.

That's largely what has led to the frequent comparisons to Jackie Kennedy — another first lady who made high-fashion style statements with simple lines and monochromatic dresses. But in terms of public persona, Trump most resembles Bess Truman — a first lady who dutifully showed up for events but played the role quietly, said Carl Sferrazza Anthony, historian of the National First Ladies' Library.

Melania Trump with her husband during a visit to a hurricane relief center in Naples, Fla., on Friday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

"Bess Truman never gave press interviews at all — and that was after Eleanor Roosevelt, who had a Sunday radio show and held press conferences," Anthony said. "When [reporters] said to Bess Truman, 'How are we going to know you without your giving us an interview?,' she quipped back: 'You don't need to know me. I'm only the wife of the president and the mother of his daughter.' "

Melania Trump hasn't yet sat for any in-depth interviews, either. Still, her interests are emerging, said Anita McBride, who served as chief of staff to Laura Bush and sits on the board of the White House Historical Association.

McBride, who attended the White House reception this week, said the first lady seems to be putting her mark on the place in small ways. There were fragrant gardenias in the grand foyers and softly dimmed lighting in the dining room, where the meal was served on the gold china selected by the Clintons to mark the White House bicentennial.

"She is obviously someone who is very comfortable entertaining and hosting people in the White House," said McBride, who directs conferences on the first ladies as an executive in residence at American University.

Melania Trump spoke more extensively than usual at the reception, telling guests, "Our family's appreciation for this home grows each and every day, and we could not be more grateful for your dedication to the White House."

Meanwhile, she has signaled some interest in the advocacy role expected of past first ladies, recently sitting in on a meeting about the opioid crisis. Still, like any first lady, she has the freedom to choose: She can do a lot publicly, or nothing at all.

"She is doing it according to a timetable that suits her," McBride said, "as every first lady should do."