Ethel Sharpe was a pupil at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. She then went on to study at the Royal College of Music in London, under Franklin Taylor. She gave her first recital in the Prince's Hall, London in November 1891. She received the silver medal of the Musicians' Company. In 1894 she gave a recital in Vienna, but reappeared in London in 1895.
Following her marriage she became known as Ethel Hobday, and took part in early recordings of full-length chamber-works (Brahms and Elgar Quintets) with the London Quartet and the Spencer Dyke Quartet. She is the accompanist to violinist Albert Sammons and violist Lionel Tertis in many early recordings.