Professor Michael Hillard of Economics, whose passion is Maine labor history, has been awarded the 2011-12 USM Trustee Professorship. The Professorship is devoted exclusively to honoring and supporting University of Maine System faculty already making noteworthy contributions to academic excellence on their campus. Dr. Hillard is using the time awarded him by the position to turn his research into a book.
Maine is a state with a rich labor history; with many river towns hosting paper mills, there are many stories to be told. These stories are the focus of his work.
The majority of the book will be focused on the approximately 130 interviews he has conducted since 2000 with current and former workers from Aroostook to York County. They include women who counted sheets of paper by hand, men who ran million-dollar machinery, and 1960’s radicals leading the 1975 paper strike. One such interview was with a man named Harley Lord, born in 1910, who in 1924 went to work for SD Warren in Westbrook. He lived three miles from the mill and would wake up early to snowshoe to work every morning. Once there, he would hitch the horses to a sled to pick up workers in Windham. Much of Dr. Hillard’s research has been conducted as part of his teaching, giving his students an opportunity to explore Maine’s labor history through the collection of oral histories.
Professor Hillard sees this as an opportunity to explore an often overlooked portion of Maine’s history. There is little research or written material to be found about Maine labor history, providing him the opportunity to turn his prolifically published articles into a cohesive book.