Mary Fisher

American artist, activist, and author

The world “discovered” Mary Fisher on the evening of August 19, 1992, when she delivered a speech at the 1992 Republican Convention. It is ranked as one of the 100 greatest American speeches in the 20th Century.

Since the steaming night in Houston, the world has come to know Mary as a gifted artist, a relentless advocate for vulnerable women, a mother whose AIDS and cancer have heightened her sense of joy and purpose.

From Public Service to Personal Advocacy

Born April 6, 1948, in Louisville, Kentucky, Mary moved to Detroit at an early age and was raised by mother Marjorie, and her father, businessman and philanthropist Max Fisher. Her first brush with the arts occurred while a student at Cranbrook Schools where she was introduced to the loom.

Mary left college early and became first a television producer and, soon thereafter, the first woman “advanceman” for a U.S. president, Gerald R. Ford. Following her years of public service, she returned to private life becoming, in the 1980s, a fulltime artist, a wife and a mother.

By mid-1991, Mary was a recognized artist and the recently divorced mother of two young sons, Zachary and Max, when she was diagnosed HIV-positive. In early 1992, at the urging of AIDS activists struggling with both the disease and discrimination, she went public with her diagnosis. Several months later, she strode onto a stage at the Republican National Convention. The stigmatizing image of AIDS as “a gay disease” drew special attention to Mary’s story. By the time she finished her Convention address in August, she had become a voice for those who dared not speak out.

Inspire. Love. Serve.

Over the past two decades, Mary has balanced her passion for art and her commitment as an advocate. Her work as a world-class jewelry designer has led to lines of bracelets produced by vulnerable women in Africa. Her sculptures, quilts, and stylized textiles have found a ready market from the halls of U.S. embassies to the homes of private collectors. Mary has refined a design aesthetic that is at once elegant and accessible, subtle and contemporary.

She has authored six books, given countless speeches, and traveled the globe as a Special Representative of the United Nations representing the call to justice and healing for those most affected by poverty, violence and AIDS.

Not long after her diagnosis, Mary founded the Family AIDS Network to help families bond in the face of AIDS’ relentless wasting and death. Following the advent of antiretroviral drugs in the late 1990s, she redirected her focus to learning and advocacy, founding the Clinical AIDS Research and Education (CARE) Fund in connection with the Center for AIDS Research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and she began her first of what are now “routine” global advocacy tours.

In 2011, while healing from treatments for breast cancer, she authored a second memoir, Messenger. “My first memoir in 1995 was my story about dying,” she explained. “Messenger is my story about living.”