May was educated at Birkenhead High School, a Girls’ Public Day School Trust School, before going on to Harrogate College then Newnham College, Cambridge.
During the First World War, May was secretary of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals from 1916. In 1919, she joined the YWCA as Education Secretary. In the New Year’s Honours List of 1949, May was made a Dame of the British Empire. She was the British delegate to the United Nationsl Refugee Fund from 1954 – 1958 and President of the British Council for Aid to Refugees from 1962 until 1973.