May Martin came to Eastern Canada from Cape Town, South Africa. She left school at the end of grade 9 and worked as a grocery clerk, hotel worker, and waitress. She spent some time in the United States before returning to Canada, living briefly in Montreal, Halifax, Toronto, and Windsor. She married Mr. Ansell and, in 1941, they drove west to Vancouver searching for work. May returned to waitressing and joined the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union (HREU). In 1942, she worked as an HREU organizer in the Yukon. On her return to Vancouver, she was elected to the rank of Business Agent and, by 1947, was Secretary of the local. In addition to fighting post-war firings of women workers, she advocated for housewives rights. By 1947, she had married Philip Leniczik, a City labourer. That year May Leniczek and two other executives were ousted from HREU following a dispute with the International. By 1951 she had divorced Leniczek and married a third time, to Mr. Martin.