Miss May Elizabeth Howard was born in North Walsham, Norfolk, England on 2 May 1885. She was later baptised on 26 August the following year.
She was the daughter of William Howard (b. 1845), an agricultural labourer, and Martha Whall (b. 1849), both also born in North Walsham and who had married in 1867. Her siblings were: Mary (b. 1874), Jane (b. 1875), Edward James (b. 1877), William (b. 1880), Henry (b. 1882), Thomas (b. 1886) and Emily (b. 1888).
For reasons unknown May does not appear with her family on the 1891 census when they were listed as living at Hall Lane in North Walsham. When she appears on the 1901 census, the family were residing at Aylsham Road, North Walsham and she would be listed at this address on the following census in 1911, still living with her family and now described as an unmarried laundress.
May boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a third class passenger (ticket number A. 2. 39186 which cost £8, 1s). She was intending to join her brother in Toronto, Ontario before joining her married sister Jane (Mrs Henry Hewitt) who had emigrated in 1908 and lived in Albion, New York where May had secured work as a nanny for the Kenyon family in that town. She had reportedly been booked on another ship but was switched to Titanic owing to the coal strike. She travelled with the Goldsmith family, whom she knew. She reportedly endured seasickness for a period during the voyage.
On the night of the sinking May had been in her cabin at the time of the collision but was still fully dressed. She described the impact as not violent enough to upset them but felt the ship rock and was further alarmed by the sound of ringing bells coming from down below. Leaving her bunk to see what had happened she encountered many other bewildered and half-dressed passengers who had left their cabins with similar curiosity. Crewmen initially instructed the crowd to go back to bed before a "doctor" came and told them all was well but to get their lifebelts.
May escaped the sinking, leaving with Mrs Goldsmith and her son in collapsible C:
" One of the ships officers grabbed Mrs Goldsmith and myself and pushed us to the edge of the ship where the lifeboat was being filled with women and children. An officer there shouted, 'All men back, women come first.'"
After her arrival in New York aboard the Carpathia she sent the following telegram from New York
"Arrived safe will write. May"
It had been May's intention to go on to Toronto to join her brother Edward, but it is unclear whether she continued on after arriving at her sister's home in Albion, New York where she gave an interview to the Orleans American a few weeks after the disaster.
It seems that she resided with her sister Mrs Hewitt for a time before going into the employment of Randall Kenyon and his wife Marion and their family in Hilton, Monroe, New York where she would help raise their five children (Margaret, Charles, Jean, Marion and Randall). She appeared with them on census from 1920 through to 1940. Following service with Mr and Mrs Randall Kenyon she later worked for their daughter Margaret, later Dieckman (1912-1998). May, who was never married, is remembered by the Kenyon family as a very sweet lady who was wonderful with children but who was quiet and reserved and ever fearful of water and, whilst it was common knowledge in the family that she had survived the Titanic, it was never a topic brought up to her as she did not like to discuss it. Her last known address was 28 Smith Street, Hilton, New York.
May Howard died in the Rochester State Hospital on 28 November 1958 aged 73 and was buried on 1 December 1958 in Boxwood Cemetery in Medina, New York in the Bowen family plot.