(Florence) May Harding was known as May Harding, presumably to distinguish her from her mother, also Florence May Harding.
May Harding was born in 1908 at Silverton (near Broken Hill, NSW), daughter of Frederick Joseph Harding (a foundry foreman; died 1956 in Broken Hill), and Florence May Boyle (born about 1890 in Glenelg, South Australia; died 1935 in Broken Hill). May lived in a house at 59 Williams Street, Broken Hill, with her father until he died, and with cats.
May Harding was a part-time lecturer at the Broken Hill Technical College, teaching art and botany. She taught art to both adults and children. Her adult students included Pro Hart and Eric Minchin. She also held children’s art classes at her home.
May Harding was an active member of the Barrier Field Naturalists’ Club (a field naturalist is a person interested in nature and natural history out-of-doors) for 45 years until her death, and was Librarian (1929-1943) and Hon. Secretary (from 1944). She organised annual wildflower shows at the Technical College.
In 1961, a group of Broken Hill artists and art lovers, notably Sam Byrne, Joyce Condon, John Gregory, May Harding, Kevin 'Pro’ Hart, and Hugh Schultz, formed The Willyama Art Society. The Aboriginal word 'Willyama’ means 'hill with broken contour’ and was the original name of Broken Hill. May Harding was elected Hon. Secretary, and later was Hon. Treasurer until 1971.
In art, May Harding was primarily a teacher rather than an artist, and her known works are few. They are all paintings or ink drawings, in a traditional realistic style. She is represented in the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery (ten works) and private collections. Her usual signature was 'May Harding’, or initials 'M.H.’ on minor works such as greetings cards sent to friends.
May Harding was an Australian pioneer of natural-history photography with 35mm Kodachrome transparencies. She used an Exa 35mm SLR camera; (the original model, a simple version of the Exacta), with a 50mm f/2.9 lens and a set of extension tubes. Her full-colour photographs of local flora were shown by projection, particularly at the Barrier Field Naturalists’ Club.
May Harding died of breast cancer in Broken Hill on 19 August 1971, aged 63. She is buried in the Broken Hill Cemetery, Methodist Section. She had never married. She is commemorated in the May Harding Drive, a street in Broken Hill. The May Harding Gallery in the Broken Hill City Art Gallery at its former location in Chloride Street was named after her, in recognition of her work as an art teacher and artist in Broken Hill.