Mrs Geraldine “Gerri” <I>Twerdy</I> Santoro

Mrs Geraldine “Gerri” Twerdy Santoro

Coventry, Tolland County, Connecticut, USA
Death 8 Jun 1964 (aged 28)
Norwich, New London County, Connecticut, USA
Burial Coventry, Tolland County, Connecticut, USA
Memorial ID 33047040 · View Source
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Gerri Santoro was raised, along with 14 siblings, on the farm of a Ukrainian-American family in Coventry, Connecticut. She was described by those who knew her as "fun-loving" and "free-spirited". At age 18, she married her husband, Sebastian "Sam" Santoro, a few weeks after meeting him at a bus stop. They moved to California and had two daughters. She suffered as a battered wife for years but found the courage to leave her husband after his abuse was aimed at their children.

She returned to Connecticut with her girls and found work. She eventually began a relationship with a married man, Clyde Dixon and became pregnant by Dixon. Her husband notified her he was coming to see their daughters. Out of fear for her own safety as well as her daughters, and the added fear of losing her children if he saw that she was pregnant by another man, Gerri and Clyde decided an abortion, which was illegal at the time, was their only option. They checked into a motel room, where Clyde attempted to perform an abortion using surgical instruments and a medical textbook, borrowed from a co-worker. When Ms. Santoro began to hemorrhage, Dixon fled the motel and left Gerri to bleed to death. This loving mother of two died alone, at age 28, and her body was found the following morning by a maid.

Dixon was apprehended three days later. He was charged with manslaughter and "conspiracy to commit abortion" and sentenced to a year-and-a-day in prison. Police officers who worked the case called the term "negligible."

Police took a photograph of Santoro's body as it was found: naked, kneeling, collapsed upon the floor, with a bloody towel between her legs. This picture was published in Ms. magazine in April 1973. It has since become a pro-choice symbol, used to illustrate the belief that access to legal, professionally-performed abortion reduces deaths from unsafe abortion. The photo is on the internet and not hard to find. It is shocking and poignant and certainly FaG is not the place to see it.

Leona Gordon, Santoro's sister, saw the photo in Ms. magazine and recognized the subject. In 1995, Jane Gillooly, an independent filmmaker from Boston, Massachusetts, interviewed Gordon, Santoro's daughters, and others for a documentary about Santoro's life, Leona's Sister Gerri. The film aired initially on the PBS series P.O.V. on June 1, 1995. It was later screened at film festivals, opening in the United States on November 2, 1995.

Of the initial publication of the photo, Santoro's daughter, Joannie, was quoted in 1995 saying, "How dare they flaunt this? How dare they take my beautiful mom and put this in front of the public eye?" However, in more recent years, Joannie has become something of an abortion rights activist, attending the March for Women's Lives in 2004 along with Gerri's sister Leona and Joannie's teenage daughter Tara. She also actively blogs about the memory of her mother.

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  • Created by: Zen
  • Added: 18 Jan 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 33047040
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Mrs Geraldine “Gerri” Twerdy Santoro (16 Aug 1935–8 Jun 1964), Find A Grave Memorial no. 33047040, citing Nathan Hale Cemetery, Coventry, Tolland County, Connecticut, USA ; Maintained by Zen (contributor 46892144) .