Ethel Hays was raised in Billings, Montana, and attended the Los Angeles School of Art and Design and also the the Art Students League in New York. She became an art teacher in army hospitals after the beginning of World War I, at the same time taking a correspondence course in drawing herself. When the editor of the Cleveland Press saw her work, she was immediately hired as a staff illustrator.
Ethel Hays' first syndicated strip was called 'Ethel', and consisted of satire and social commentary. She also made a one-panel cartoon about 'Flapper Fanny', and in 1928 she started doing Sunday pages. Ethel Hays, who had gotten married in 1924, found that by the time she had her second child, the workload was becoming too heavy, and she turned 'Flapper Fanny' over to Gladys Parker. Other flapper strips Ethel Hays created were 'Marianne', a rich girl who has no cares in the world, and 'Vic and Ethel' a carefree couple. All these comics had the noted characteristic of the flapper, one who parties alot, dresses extravagantly, and is carefree.