Hawthorne's description of the majority of the females in the town give a vivid image of the cruel and self-righteous attitude they possessed. The women stand outside and discuss the "hussy" and the horrible sin she committed. The conversation Hawthorne creates among the women, leaves such an absence of compassion on the part of these women, the reader cannot help but fill that void. Through these women Hawthorne gives the reader shades of Puritanism, however he allows the reader to assess the experiences against their own emotions.
Hawthorne describes the women who wait for Hester's public shaming to begin as "the ugliest as well as the most pitiless of these self constituted judges." The women are, for the most part, the more severe of those who seek to shame our heroine. They lament the fact that Hester is not punished appropriately via death or branding and feel the men are kind. Hester's beauty and spirit are of issue to the women, who must feel insecure about their own husbands as they look at this beautiful, talented, and vibrant woman holding a child with an unknown father. This, coupled with their mercy, must have put them at odds with their own confidence in their fine, upstanding husbands.
The beginning of Chapter Two of "The Scarlet Letter" tells a lot about the Puritan women--you can pull a quote from there, perhaps one near the end of the women's conversation where the man injects or the one from the old woman right before that. In summary, Hawthorne tell the reader that the older Puritan women were strong, beefy women from England. As the generations passed, the women became frailer and more pale. This is also reflected in their personalities. The older women are saying that Hester should have been given to them for a better (more crueler and deserving) punishment. The younger women are more apt to be kind and make excuses for Hester.