Paula Johnson Purdue began her professional career as a teacher, but in 1976 she was hired to work as a lobbyist for the Illinois Education Association (IEA) and served in that position until 2004. Since the IEA was a strong supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, she lobbied for its passage in the Illinois legislature until its defeat in 1982. She knew the key players in that extended battle, both pro and anti-ERA. She continued to push for its passage even after the time frame for its passage expired in 1982. After leaving the IEA in 2004, she worked as a lobbyist for various clients through 2012.