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How millions of women became the most essential workers in America

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Every day, Constance Warren stands behind the cold cuts counter at a grocery store in New Orleans, watching the regular customers come and go.

They thank Ms. Warren and tell her they do not like being stuck indoors, waiting out the epidemic. She wraps their honey-smoked turkey and smiles.

It is good to have a job right now, the mixed fortune of being deemed an essential worker. But she wonders whether, once everyday life is safe again, people will remember the role she played when it was not.

“Don’t forget that we were open to serve you in your time of need,” she said on a break one recent workday afternoon. “You never know when you might need us again.”

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