What kind of work was available to American woman before the civil war?
Outside the home their opportunities were extremely limited.
During the industrialization of America in 1820 and 1830, American women who had worked on the farms of New England became excess labor. When the newly built textile mills of Lowell Massachusetts discovered this labor pool they invited women to work in their mills. Similar things happened in other states.
The only other jobs women were accepted in were teaching and retail sales. When Susan B. Anthony started the women's suffrage movement in 1840, this was one of her primary complaints about the condition of women.