Lydia Savage

Professor of Geography
Lydia Savage


300 Bailey Hall, 37 College Avenue Gorham, Maine

Contact Information

Phone: (207) 780-5321

A native of San Francisco, Lydia began her undergraduate studies in 1982.  After taking time off to travel and live in many places including Japan and teaching ESL to children of migrant workers in the Central Valley, she eventually earned her B.A. in geography from the University of California at Berkeley in 1990.  She moved to the east coast in 1991 to begin her graduate studies in geography at Clark University in Worcester, MA where she earned her M.A. in 1993 and her Ph.D. in 1996.  Despite her family’s best efforts to lure her back to the west coast, she began teaching at USM in 1996 and currently serves as chair of the department.  Her teaching and research combine her interests in economic change, feminism, urban and regional development, and her family’s long history in the U.S. labor movement.


Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, Graduate School of Geography, 1993-1996, Ph.D.
Dissertation Title: Negotiating Common Ground: Union Organizing and Women Workers in the Low-Wage Service Sector.
Advisor: Dr. Susan Hanson
Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, Graduate School of Geography, 1991-1993, M.A.

University of California, Berkeley, 1990, Geography, B.A. with Honors

Courses Taught at USM

GYA 202D: Research Methods
GEO 101J: Human Geography
GEO 203J: Urban and Regional Development
GEO 209: Introduction to Land Use Planning
GEO 302: Gender, Work, and Space
GEO 402: Urban Geography
COR 160: Power, Profit, and Pleasure

Research Interests

My research interests are in economic, urban, and social geography. My long-term research has focused primarily on economic change and both its impact on workers and the response of workers, particularly women employed in the growing service sector. This research examines the ways in which labor unions use geographically informed organizing strategies in light of contemporary changes in employment. I maintain that workers can use labor unions to improve their position in the labor market, and in the process, labor unions are strengthened and are better able to respond to economic change. My research findings contribute to the emerging geographic literature that renders workers, especially women, visible as actors in creating economic, social, and political landscapes. The AFL-CIO has placed organizing low-wage service workers-women, people of color, and immigrants-on the agenda. While it is a welcome and important step for unions to recognize the importance of worker's identities in their organizing efforts, my findings indicate that there are important place-to-place differences among groups of workers. In addition, organizing strategies that were created for the manufacturing sector must change to take account of the different spatial arrangements (i.e., factory floor vs. individual offices) and geographies/micro-geographies of service workplaces. Moreover, labor unions as institutions must fundamentally change their structure, culture, and leadership in order to represent workers in the new economy.

Recent Publications

Lydia Savage and Jane Wills. 2004. Guest Co-editors. "Geographical Challenges to Organized Labor." A special theme issue of Geoforum titled "Geographical Challenges to Organized Labor," a collection of 5 peer-reviewed articles and introductory essay. 35 (1)

Lydia Savage. Forthcoming. From Mills to Medical City: Health Care Work in Worcester, Massachusetts. In Beyond the Flannel Shirt Frontier: Changing Life and Work in New England

Lydia Savage. 2004. Public Sector Unions Shaping Hospital Privatization: The Creation of Boston Medical Center. Environment and Planning A 36(3): 547 - 568.

Lydia Savage and Mark Lapping. 2003. Sprawl and Its Discontents: The Rural Dimension. In Matthew J. Lindstrom and Hugh Bartling (eds) Suburban Sprawl: Culture, Ecology, and Politics. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.

Lydia Savage and Ernesta P. Stevens. 2002. Brownfield Redevelopment and Community Activism: Portland, Maine. In the Proceedings New England-St. Lawrence Valley Geographical Society Annual Meeting, October 20-21, 2001, Volume 31.

Lydia A. Savage and Carrie Hight. 2001. Calling the New Economy: Maine's Shift from Mills to Call Centers. In the Proceedings New England-St. Lawrence Valley

New Publications

What's New?

Ciolfi, M. L., Griffin, E., Pratt, J., Richards, M., Gildard, S., & Byrne, B. (2016). Living with a brain injury in Maine: Individual experiences, perceptions, and need.  Portland, ME: University of Southern Maine, Muskie School of Public Service.

Lenardson, J. D., Gale, J. A., & Ziller, E. C. (2016). Rural opioid abuse: Prevalence and user characteristics. (PB 63-1). Portland, ME: University of Southern Maine, Muskie School of Public Service, Maine Rural Health Research Center.

Snow, K. I., Gressani, T., Olsen, L., McGuire, C., Bratesman, S., Mauney, K., & Theriault, J. (2016). Adults using long term services and supports: Population and service use trends in Maine, SFY 2014. (Chartbook). Portland, ME: University of Southern Maine, Muskie School of Public Service.

Talbot, J. A., Ziller, E. C., & Szlocek, D. (2016). Mental health first aid in rural communities: Appropriateness and outcomes. Journal of Rural Health. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12173.

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