Purdue attended the University of Kentucky and earned a bachelor of arts in history in 1969. She then earned a masters in community college education and a doctorate in education administration from the University of Florida.
During her early career, Perdue worked as a school teacher and a health care consultant. She taught elementary, middle, and high school classes in Georgia and Florida. She also worked as a consultant in geriatrics and activity programs in long-term care.
Perdue's political career began in 1986 when she was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives for two terms.
In 1990, she was elected to the North Carolina Senate where she earned the nickname 'Dumpling' from her male colleagues. Perdue was ranked among the top six most effective legislators and pushed for a bill that eventually became the Clean Water Management Trust Fund.
Perdue was elected North Carolina's first female Lieutenant Governor in 2000 and was re-elected in 2004. During her tenure, she chaired a commission that decided that settlement money from a state lawsuit against big tobacco companies should be spent on health care, and she also helped protect the state's military bases from closure by the U.S. Defense Department.
In 2007, she kicked off her campaign for Governor. In the 2008 primary, she defeated State Treasurer Richard Moore and retired Air Force colonel Dennis Nielsen.
The issues she made her own were a plan to increase health coverage for children and a proposal to increase the homestead exemption for seniors.
In the general election, Perdue faced Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, a Republican, and Duke University political science professor Mike Munger, a Libertarian.
Polls showed a close race throughout the campaign, but Perdue won the majority.
She's North Carolina's first female Governor, and the first lieutenant governor to win election to the top job since Jim Hunt did it in 1976.