Elizabeth Perkins was the eldest child in the family of James Alexander and Ivy Blanche Perkins. After completing her schooling at Clayfield College, Brisbane, Perkins continued her education at the University of Queensland. She later added to her qualifications with a Licentiate of Speech and Drama, an honours degree in English Literature, a Master of Arts (on Charles Harpur) and a Doctor of Philosophy (on Australian drama).
Perkins taught at schools in Queensland and in Melbourne and worked as a research assistant to Cecil Hadgraft. In 1970 she took up a lecturer's position at James Cook University and remained there until her retirement in 1996. In the late 1980s, Perkins served on the Literature Board of the Australia Council and she was the founding editor of the North Queensland journal, LiNQ.
Also a creative writer, Perkins devised numerous dramas, particularly musicals for children, although her only published play is A Squeaking of Rats. Perkins was actively involved with the theatrical life of Townsville, including associations with Townsville Little Theatre, New Moon Theatre and Tropic Line Theatre.