1972 Charlie Chaplin prepares for return to United States after two decades On this day in 1972, the great silent film actor and filmmaker Charlie Chaplin prepares for his first voyage to the United States since 1952, when he was denied a re-entry visa amid questions about his leftist politics. Born in Britain in 1889, Chaplin first became famous as the “Little Tramp” in Mack Sennett’s Keystone comedy films. Over the course of his four decades in Hollywood, Chaplin was one of the motion-picture industry’s most accomplished figures, writing, producing, directing and acting in such gems as The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1929), Modern Times (1936) and The Great Dictator (1940). With Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith, Chaplin founded United Artists, the first major movie production company to be controlled by filmmakers instead of businessmen. Led by Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee, anti-Communist hysteria had Hollywood in its grip by the end of the 1940s. Chaplin earned special scrutiny on account of his tumultuous private life (married several times to extremely young women, he was also the target of a paternity suit in 1943, which he lost) and his public support of leftist political causes. In September 1952, Chaplin and his fourth wife, Oona (the daughter of the playwright Eugene O’Neill) were en route to London for that city’s premiere of his latest film, Limelight, when they were informed by U.S. immigration services that Chaplin would be denied a re-entry visa upon his return. Bitter and angry, Chaplin vowed never to return to the United States. He moved with his family to Switzerland, and never made another American film. Over the years, anti-Communist fervor died down in the United States, as did the animosity between Chaplin and the American government. In 1972, Chaplin planned a return visit to America to accept an honorary Academy Award. He traveled first to the British overseas territory of Bermuda, where he prepared on April 2 for his flight to the United States. The following day, according to a report in The New York Times, Chaplin arrived at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Eastern Airlines Flight 810, at three p.m. in the afternoon. As his wife guided him by the elbow to a waiting limousine, Chaplin blew kisses to the nearly 100 people (most of them members of the press) who had gathered on the airfield; some 200 other spectators watched from behind glass in the Eastern Airport Terminal. Chaplin spent four days in New York, where the Film Society of Lincoln Center honored him in a tribute. He then flew to Los Angeles for the 44th annual Academy Awards ceremony. The 82-year-old Chaplin received a 12-minute-long standing ovation from the audience in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion that night, and was visibly moved as he accepted the award, which honored “the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century.” 1902 First woman judge dies in Wyoming Esther Morris, the first woman judge in American history, dies in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Although widely celebrated as a hero of the early suffragist movement, Esther Morris was hardly a radical advocate for women’s rights. She spent the first 55 years of her life living quietly in New York state and Illinois, working as a milliner and housewife. In 1869, Morris moved to Wyoming Territory with her second husband, who had opened a saloon in the gold mining camp of South Pass City. That same year, a territorial representative from South Pass City introduced a bill giving women the right to vote and hold public office. Eager to promote Wyoming Territory and to attract more women settlers, the all-male territorial legislature approved the bill, making Wyoming the first territory or state in American history to enfranchise women. One of the strongest backers of the new law was the territorial governor, John Campbell. Eager to take more actions to further women’s political power, in early 1870 Campbell began to search for women qualified and willing to be appointed as justices of the peace. Morris became Campbell’s first and only successful appointment. Hailed by American suffragists as the first female judge in the world, Morris does not appear to have been a dedicated activist for women’s rights. Appointed to serve out the term of a man who had resigned, Morris only worked for nine months as a justice of the peace. During that time she competently handled the 26 cases she tried. After she retired from the post in November 1870, however, Morris never again sought public office. When later asked about the issue of women’s suffrage, Morris replied that women would do well to leave the matter in the hands of men. Like many women of the time, Morris supported women’s rights, but she believed a gradual approach would prove most successful. Despite her reluctance to be revered as an activist, Morris has often been celebrated as an important symbol of women’s rights. In 1890, one of her sons began calling her the “mother of woman suffrage” in his Cheyenne newspaper. Nearly two decades after she died in 1902, a witness claimed that Morris had pushed for the introduction of the original bill granting women the vote in 1869, though other evidence contradicts this claim. Nonetheless, as the “first woman judge,” Morris has continued to be a symbol of the long battle for women’s rights in America. Bronze statues at the U.S. Capitol and in Cheyenne honor her memory. 1917 Jeannette Rankin, first woman elected to U.S. Congress, assumes office Jeannette Pickering Rankin, the first woman ever elected to Congress, takes her seat in the U.S. Capitol as a representative from Montana. Born on a ranch near Missoula, Montana Territory, in 1880, Rankin was a social worker in the states of Montana and Washington before joining the women’s suffrage movement in 1910. Working with various suffrage groups, she campaigned for the women’s vote on a national level and in 1914 was instrumental in the passage of suffrage legislation in Montana. Two years later, she successfully ran for Congress in Montana on a progressive Republican platform calling for total women’s suffrage, legislation protecting children, and U.S. neutrality in the European war. Following her election as a representative, Rankin’s entrance into Congress was delayed for a month as congressmen discussed whether a woman should be admitted into the House of Representatives. Finally, on April 2, 1917, she was introduced in Congress as its first female member. The same day, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress and urged a declaration of war against Germany. On April 4, the Senate voted for war by a wide majority, and on April 6 the vote went to the House. Citing public opinion in Montana and her own pacifist beliefs, Jeannette Rankin was one of only 50 representatives who voted against the American declaration of war. For the remainder of her first term in Congress, she sponsored legislation to aid women and children, and advocated the passage of a federal suffrage amendment. In 1918, Rankin unsuccessfully ran for a Senate seat, and in 1919 she left Congress to become an important figure in a number of suffrage and pacifist organizations. In 1940, with the U.S. entrance into another world war imminent, she was again elected as a pacifist representative from Montana and, after assuming office, argued vehemently against President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s war preparations. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the next day, at Roosevelt’s urging, Congress passed a formal declaration of war against Japan. Representative Rankin cast the sole dissenting vote. This action created a furor and Rankin declined to seek reelection. After leaving office in 1943, Rankin continued to be an important spokesperson for pacifism and social reform. In 1967, she organized the Jeannette Rankin Brigade, an organization that staged a number of highly publicized protests against the Vietnam War. She died in 1973 at the age of 93.