She was born in Taoyuan County, in northern Taiwan, and studied law at the National Taiwan University. Graduating in 1967, she went on to gain a masters from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Ph.D from Harvard University. During the 1970s she established herself as a prominent advocate of feminist ideas in Taiwan, including writing Hsin-nü-hsing Chu-i (新女性主義 New Women's Principle). she also became involved in politics with the dang wai and through the Formosa Magazine Mei-li Tao. Surviving throat cancer in 1974, she spoke at the rally that precipitated the Kaohsiung Incident and was subsequently sentenced to twelve years for sedition. She served six and was paroled due to her poor health -- she was suffering from thyroid cancer.
She was elected to the Legislative Yuan in 1993. In 1997 she won an election to be a magistrate in Taoyuan, replacing her murdered predecessor. On March 18, 2000, she was elected vice-president. She has been notably more outspoken in favor of Taiwan independence than President Chen Shui-bian, and as such has been more heavily attacked than Chen both by the government of the People's Republic of China as well as by supporters of Chinese reunification on Taiwan.
She was awarded the World Peace Corps Academy's World Peace Prize in 2001. This prize provoked a controversy in Taiwan, as Lu's political opponents have accused her of vastly overstating the significance and value of that award.
Within Taiwan, she has been a more divisive figure than Chen, by being more blunt towards the mainland. Accordingly, the mainland media labelled her "insane" and the "scum of the nation." She often complained of being sidelined or being treated like a mere "flower vase" by the administration.
In the months leading to the ROC presidential election, 2004 there was intense speculation as to whether she would be chosen Chen's running mate, as party leaders had pressured him to choose someone else (presumably less controversial and outspoken to appeal to swing voters) to bolster his chances of winning. On December 11, 2003, Chen officially nominated Lu to run for a second term, ending this suspense.
See also: Politics of Taiwan