Munitionette at the Hayle explosives factory
20th December, 1916
Aged only 21 at the time of her death, her loss would have been keenly felt by family members, though perhaps they would have been comforted by the fact she had been active in the war effort. May was from a large family, the eldest of at least 10 children, and was working as a biscuit packer in a factory at the age of 15. She spent the first six or seven years of her life in Brooklyn, New York, USA, where she and four of her younger siblings were born. Their father, William, was a Saddler and harness maker, and the family returned to Cornwall around 1903, perhaps for William to work at one of the foundries in Hayle which relied on horse-power to move raw materials and finished goods.
Following a shortage of explosive shells at the front line in 1915, the Ministry of Munitions was set up by David Lloyd George to ensure the problem didn't reoccur. This entailed the setting up of 147 additional munition factories,staffed largely by women, including sites at Camborne and Hayle. The work, by its nature, was dangerous, and deaths from chemical exposure or explosions were not uncommon, though the majority of incidents were not reported in the press, lest it affect national morale. May Stoneman is one of only a handful of identified cases; she was killed alongside Cissie Rogers as a result of an accident at the National Explosive Factory in Hayle, whilst processing cordierite.