Raised in Colorado Springs, Colorado, she studied at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center with Frank Mechau, Boardman Robinson, and Peppino Mangravite, and was a member of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
In 1938, Ethel received her first of seven Government commissions when she was commissioned to produce a painting for the United States post office in Auburn, Nebraska titled Threshing. Other murals commissioned by the US Government hang in the United States Senate Chamber, the Social Security Building and the Recorder Deeds Building in Washington D.C., and in post offices in Wynne, Arkansas titled Cotton Pickers in 1940. Madill, Oklahoma titled Prairie Fire in 1941.
And Denver, Colorado titled The Horse Corral in 1942. Her final mural, entitled Grant in the Wilderness, was installed in 1979 in the Chancellorsville Visitor Center at the Fredericksburg National Memorial Military Park in Virginia,
Magafan died in 1993.
Member National Academy of Design (Second vice president 1975, Benjamin Altman award 1980), American Water Color Society.
Married Bruce Currie, June 30, 1946. 1 daughter, Jenne Magafan.