May Emmeline Wirth (1894-1978), circus rider, was born on 6 June 1894 at Bundaberg, Queensland, daughter of John Edward Zinga, a circus artist from Mauritius whose real name was Despoges, and his native-born second wife Dezeppo Marie, née Beaumont. After her parents separated, May was adopted in 1901 by Mary Elizabeth Victoria ('Marizles') Wirth (1868-1948), equestrienne and sister of Philip and George Wirth. Born on 7 December 1868 at Dalby, Queensland, Marizles had married John Augustin Martin (d.1907), circus musician, on 9 February 1891 at St Andrew's Anglican Cathedral, Sydney. With their only daughter Stella (b.1892), they toured overseas with Wirth Brothers' Circus in 1893-1900.
Having been taught by her father to do the 'flip-flap', May soon featured in balancing and tumbling acts, and as a tightwire performer and contortionist. From Philip and Marizles she learned equestrian skills and from ringmaster John Cooke the feet-to-feet forward somersault on a bareback horse. At the age of 10 she was a 'real trick rider' and began appearing in acts with Stella and Marizles. In Melbourne in 1906 she was billed as 'May Ringling', the 'American fearless hurricane hurdle rider'. A 'remarkably pretty girl', she grew to only 4 ft 11 ins (150 cm) tall.
Retiring at the peak of her career in 1937, May Wirth settled in New York; Marizles died there on 30 March 1948. May moved to Sarasota, Florida, where her name was added to the Circus Hall of Fame in 1964. A gracious, gentle woman, with 'merry brown eyes', she remained 'sprightly' and enjoyed sharing her circus memories. Predeceased by her husband, she died on 18 October 1978 at Sarasota and was cremated.