Hutton, who has been described as an orphan by some sources, is now often believed to have been illegitimate. She was raised by her paternal grandfather, Aza, in Ohio. Aza, who was blind, enjoyed political meetings and May often accompanied him.
In 1883, as an adult, she moved to Idaho. There, she owned and operated a boarding house in Kellogg, Idaho. In 1887 she married Levi Hutton (one of her customers) and they moved to Wallace, Idaho where she oversaw the dining hall of the Wallace Hotel. Her husband "Al" Hutton worked for the Northern Pacific railroad, and both she and her husband were active in the associated labor movements. When miners dynamited the Bunker Hill and Sullivan's mine concentrator in Wardner, Idaho, Al was the engineer of the train used to deliver the dynamite. She wrote a book about the horrible treatment of the miners at the hands of the mine owners, and the treatment of her husband at the hands of the sheriff/mine owners in her book The Coeur d'Alenes: or, A tale of the modern inquisition in Idaho. In later life, she bought all of the copies she could back
She was a supporter of the women's suffrage movement in Idaho, which achieved the vote in 1896 thanks to the unconventional work of Emma Smith DeVoe, who had been sent to lead the suffrage campaign in Idaho by the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1897, the Huttons, along with August Paulsen, Harry Day, teamster Harry Orchard, butcher F. M. Rothrock, lawyer Henry F. Samuels and C. H. Reeves, invested in the Hercules silver mine. The mine would make all of them millionaires by June 1901.
In 1903 when President Teddy Roosevelt visited the Northwest, May and her husband served him coffee in their home when he toured Wallace. She also hosted Clarence Darrow and noted suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt. May Hutton was a candidate for the Idaho State Senate in 1904, but was defeated.
In 1906 May and Al moved to Spokane, Washington, and she became a member of the Spokane Equal Suffrage Club and first vice-president of the Washington Equal Suffrage Association which was then led by Emma Smith DeVoe. She became a well-known suffrage leader, but her outspoken style and unconventional behavior contrasted sharply with that of the more moderate Emma Smith DeVoe, a national suffrage organizer who was active in Tacoma, Olympia and Seattle. There was a great deal of conflict between the two, but they achieved their goal in 1910. May attended the Democratic National Convention in 1912.
The last year of her life she was ill with Bright's disease. She was known to travel in her chauffeured Thomas Flyer to farm communities, meeting farmers and trying to make matches to keep single mothers and their children together.