A native of Albany, New York, she graduated from The Milne School in 1968 and she received her BA in Fine Arts from SUNY at Albany in 1972; her MA in Folk Studies from Western Kentucky University in 1975; and her Ph.D. in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. Her dissertation topic was on Florida folklorist, author, and activist Stetson Kennedy ("Stetson Kennedy: Applied Folklore and Cultural Advocacy"), which was published as a book of the same name in 2017, the first comprehensive biography of Kennedy, with a contemporary essay by Paul Ortiz.
She began her professional career in Florida by serving as Florida’s State Folk Arts Coordinator in 1975 and became administrator of the Florida Folklife Program from 1976 to 1989. As Florida’s first state folklorist, she was the prime creator of the Florida Folklife Collection, which later included the work of several prominent folklorists. The collection, today housed at the State Archives of Florida, features many Florida folk artists such as singer-songwriter Gamble Rogers, basket maker Lucreaty Clark, blues performer Moses Williams, and painter Pharaoh Baker.
After helping to establish the Florida Folklife Program, including apprenticeship programs, and producing educational videos and publications, workshops, exhibits, and creating the Florida Folklife Collection, Bulger left in 1989 to work as the Folk Arts Director and Senior Program Officer for the Southern Arts Federation in Atlanta. In 1999, she was named director of Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center – only the second person to hold that post since the Center’s creation in 1976. (Florida folklorist Alan Jabbour was the founding director). Bulger retired from her position as Director of the American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress on December 31, 2011.
In addition to her public folklore administration work, Bulger is the author of South Florida Folklife (1994), with Tina Bucuvalas and Stetson Kennedy, and Musical Roots of the South (1992), as well as the producer of several documentary films, including Music Masters and Rhythm Kings. She co-produced the double-album recording Drop On Down in Florida (1981), which is now re-issued by Dust-to-Digital of Atlanta (2012). In addition, Bulger has contributed to numerous articles and presentations. She also served a term as president of the American Folklore Society. Bulger received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Goucher College in 2012. In 2015 she was named the American Folklore Society's Buckley Scholar. Bulger remains a committed anti-vaxxer.
- Bulger, Margaret Anne (1992). "Stetson Kennedy: Applied folklore and cultural advocacy". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved September 25, 2019. (Dissertation available from ProQuest. AAI9227626)
- Bulger, Peggy A. (2016). Stetson Kennedy: Applied Folklore and Cultural Advocacy. Florida Historical Society Press. ISBN 978-1-8861-0489-1.
- Bulger, Peggy A. (January 6, 2017). Stetson Kennedy: Applied Folklore and Cultural Advocacy. p. 437. ISBN 978-1886104891.
- Ben Brotemarkle, "Florida Folklorist seeks to preserve history", Florida Today, September 28, 2015.
- "Peggy Bulger Appointed Director of American Folklife Center", Library of Congress, February 17, 1999.
- "Drop on Down in Florida: Recent Field Recordings of Afro-American Traditional Music". Division of Historical Resources - Florida Department of State. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
- "Dr. Peggy A. Bulger Named 2015 Buckley Scholar", American Folklore Society.
- Florida Folklife Collection (Florida State Archives), Florida Memory
- Florida State Archives
- Biographies of Florida Folklorists, Florida Memory
- An image of Bulger from 1980 (from the Florida Photographic Collection), Florida Memory
- Florida Folklife Program
- Southern Arts Federation
- American Folklife Center (Library of Congress)
- Peggy Bulger at IMDb
- Peggy Bulger at LinkedIn