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Elaine Perkins was the graduate daughter of Bessie Street School headmaster Wilfred Perkins and one-time love of Ken Barlow during his teaching days.

Elaine stayed with her father when she was in Weatherfield but mostly lived in London. Her mother was dead and she had at least one brother who also lived in London. Despite several proposals, she had remained unattached, considering herself not ready for marriage. When she met Ken, she was seeing a liberal politician and enjoyed the occasional jaunt overseas, viewing life as something to be enjoyed.

Ken met Elaine at a function for the teaching staff at the Perkins' home. Mr Perkins introduced them to each other after Ken complained that he saw enough of his colleagues during school hours. After being talked up by Mr Perkins and Hilary Dodds, Ken was questioned by Elaine on why he was teaching instead of leading the government, leading Ken in turn to playfully mock the fact that Elaine wasn't working as she didn't yet know what she wanted to do with her degree. Describing herself as liberally educated but an innocent abroad in the real world, Elaine was aligned with Ken politically and they used this to form a common bond, despite an age gap.

Over the following weeks, Elaine and Ken went on several dates as friends. They found each other stimulating company, debating such topics as censorship and snobbery in the art world. Ken began falling for Elaine, and tried to interest her in going out to the countryside with him, however she had a prior engagement and turned him down. Over time, Ken grew jealous of the other men in Elaine's life; on a date to a cricket match, Elaine neglected Ken to chat to her friends in the club bar. When she later revealed that she had arranged to go to Brussels with her friend Timothy, Ken asked her whether Timothy was a friend or a lover, and confessed that he was in love with her himself. Elaine tried to reject Ken gently, but when he called her permissive with other men, she spurned him more firmly, labelling him a stiff provincial twit.

Bitter from losing Elaine, Ken used Norma Ford and Rita Littlewood to pull back into life before marrying Janet Reid.

Elaine was played by Joanna Lumley, later star of Sapphire and Steel and Absolutely Fabulous.
It was originally intended for the character to return in 2009 for the storyline in which Ken has an affair that makes him contemplate leaving Coronation Street for good. However, Joanna Lumley was unavailable and the storyline was altered and her role was replaced by new character Martha Fraser, portrayed by the equally glamorous Stephanie Beacham.

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