Longtime animal-rights activist Mary Max, wife of legendary pop artist Peter Max, was found dead in her New York City apartment earlier this week, reportedly due to suicide. The news of Max’s passing has shaken many in the animal protection community who considered her a fixture in the movement to end animal suffering.

Amongst her accomplishments, Max co-founded Humane USA-PAC in the early 2000s to elect humane-minded legislators nationwide, and later helped launch Voters for Animal Rights, an organization that seeks to elect humane-minded legislators in NYC. Max was very involved in politics, hosting fundraisers for humane-minded politicians such as NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom she persistently encouraged to think critically about meat reduction. De Blasio went on to institute Meatless Mondays in all city public schools and champion the Green New Deal NYC, which would phase out all purchasing of processed meats for city institutions and reduce red meat purchasing by 50 percent. For years, Max produced an action alert email list, encouraging her many readers to contact legislators on various animal-friendly bills.

Max was tireless in her quest to mainstream animal protection issues, including through raising awareness about humane, eco-friendly living, as evidenced by the role she played as executive producer of the 2011 film Vegucated, an award-winning documentary ahead of its time that detailed what happens when three meat-eating New Yorkers go vegan.  

She was a founding board member of the Coalition for Healthy School Food, an organization that introduces plant-based foods and nutrition education to school communities. She also served on the board of the Humane Society of the United States, where her strong support for its Pets for Life program has been credited as playing a major role in keeping thousands of animals in homes all over New York by providing support and resources to those of limited income who were struggling to care for their animal companions. Max was a very generous supporter of many animal-advocacy causes, frequently co-hosting fundraisers at her husband’s art studio, and donating many of his pieces—as well as items from her own personal jewelry collection—as auction items.

She served as a matriarch of sorts within the NYC activist scene, regularly taking new activists under her wing, providing mentorship, community, connections, as well as resources and knowledge. She helped fledgling organizations, activists, authors, and filmmakers launch their careers and their works into the public eye. Throughout her life, Max was recognized for her excellent contributions by organizations including Farm Sanctuary and Mercy For Animals.

Those who knew Max know that she suffered from depression, in part over the past several years due to mounting legal and family troubles, which were chronicled in a lengthy exposé by the The New York Times in May. Less than two weeks later, she was found dead in her Manhattan apartment. Subsequent stories have covered Max’s suicide but failed to mention the tireless work of this relentless ambassador of animal rights.

We at VegNews are deeply saddened by the news of Mary Max’s suicide, and honor the meaningful work she has done on behalf of animals and animal advocates far and wide.

Jasmin Singer, Digital Director of VegNews—and Marisa Miller Wolfson, writer/director of Vegucated—are among the activists whose lives have been forever impacted by Mary Max’s influence.

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