An agency of the United Methodist Church, Murphy-Harpst was organized in 1984 as a merger of the former Sarah Murphy Home, established in 1931, and the Ethel Harpst Home.
Ethel Harpst is honored for life-long achievements in serving homeless children. She began her career as a teacher in Cedartown’s mill village in 1914, but soon faced tremendous challenges by having to take in numerous children who had been orphaned by parents that were victims of a widespread tuberculosis epidemic. As a result, the Ethel Harpst Home opened in March 1924 and housed many children until the walls could expand no more.
Harpst traveled to raise funds for a new home, and in 1927 the first modern building, James Hall, was completed. It was done just in time for children who were displaced and orphaned during the Great Depression. An answer to prayer was the interest and attention shown by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Pfeiffer of New York. Through the Pfeiffer’s and several other friends, money was raised to allow more buildings to be built on the campus during the next 20 years, and hundreds of acres of land were contributed to the cause. All this is thanks to the dedication and tenacity of Harpst to continue fundraising. Today, the site houses the Murphy-Harpst residential program, where Georgia’s severely abused children can go for healing and therapy. In 2010-11, the program served nearly 300 children, which included 97 children in residential treatment.
The idea to create an organization dedicated to honoring important women of Georgia’s history was first suggested in 1988 by Rosalynn Carter, and the Georgia Women of Achievement was organized in 1992. Since then, more than 74 outstanding women have been inducted. “The process in nominating Ethel Harpst for the award was highly competitive,” says Emily Saltino, Murphy-Harpst Vice President of Development. 'We are most grateful to Eddie Hilburn of Cedartown and to Greg Gray of the Polk County Historical Society for providing historical documentation.'
“To have both Sarah Murphy (who was inducted in 2004) and Ethel Harpst honored by the Georgia Women of Achievement is a major milestone for Murphy-Harpst,” says Jim Tichenor, director of communications. “Both women overcame tremendous obstacles in saving the lives of hundreds of abandoned young people at a time when social services weren’t available in rural Georgia.”