She's Alberta's first female premier. But Alison Redford was a dark horse candidate in the 2011 leadership campaign organized by the four-decade-old Alberta Progressive Conservative dynasty.

The 47-year-old lawyer replaced Ed Stelmach as party leader after she rallied from behind for a stunning upset.

She had the support of only one backbench MLA heading into the campaign, not normally a good sign.

She won on the second ballot, largely due to the party's voting system. It didn't give frontrunner Gary Mar enough first-choice ballots for a clearcut victory, but boosted Redford over Mar when second-choice ballots cast by other rivals were counted.

"It's time for us to understand that there needs to be a generational change and an attitudinal change," Redford told the CBC at the time.

International experience

Born in Kitimat, B.C., Redford's family moved to Calgary when she was 12. Her first success in politics was as a student at Bishop Carroll High School in Calgary. She was elected president of the Progressive Conservative Youth of Alberta.

She got her law degree at the University of Saskatchewan in 1988. After graduating, she worked as a senior policy adviser for Joe Clark when he was secretary of state for external affairs. She also worked in former prime minister Brian Mulroney's office.

Redford is not bilingual, but is comfortable answering questions in French. She worked at a small law partnership in Calgary before starting her own law firm. Still, her resume stands out compared to previous Alberta premiers because of her extensive involvement in international affairs.

In the 1990s she worked as a technical adviser on constitutional and legal reform issues in Africa for the European Union, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Canadian and Australian governments.

Redford helped co-ordinate the first all-race elections in South Africa in 1994, which saw Nelson Mandela become the first black president.

In 2005, she was appointed by the United Nations as an election commissioner to help organize Afghanistan's first parliamentary elections.

She's worked in various advisory roles and foreign projects in Vietnam, Bosnia, Serbia and the Philippines, among other overseas countries.

Redford's first run for front-line political office was at the federal level in 2004. She ran - but lost - attempting to knock off MP Rob Anders in the Conservative nomination contest.

Prior to the vote, Anders predicted he had the contest sown up "unless she's got some magic support base of people who like feminist lawyers."

First elected in 2008

She ran provincially in former premier Ralph Klein's riding of Calgary Elbow in 2008. It had been won temporarily by the Liberals in a byelection.

She beat second-place Liberal challenger Craig Cheffins narrowly by just over 400 votes, and was immediately appointed justice minister and attorney general by Stelmach.

Since becoming Alberta's 14th premier, Redford has spearheaded a push toward tougher impaired driving laws, called an independent inquiry into allegations of health care queue-jumping, and tried to rally other provincial leaders behind a Canadian energy strategy.

Redford has already shown she's sensitive to public criticism, taking little time to reverse an early decision to scrap a fall legislature sitting.

She also wasted no time when she suspended without pay Alberta's trade representative to Asia, Gary Mar. That was after questions were raised about the propriety of a Mar fundraiser held to eliminate debts from his unsuccessful leadership bid.

Redford is married to lawyer Glen Jermyn. They have a school-aged daughter, Sarah.