By introducing the two older women first in the story, the author allows us an opportunity to understand Mrs. Hopewell's desire for her daughter Joy/Hulga to have a normal happy life. Mrs. Freeman's daughters, Glynese has many admirers, Carramae got pregnant at 15 and is married. Both her daughters are on the path to the future that both these women want for their daughters, husband, children, home of their own.
Mrs. Hopewell must listen to Mrs. Freeman talk about her daughters knowing that her daughter is bitter, distant, and alone. So it gives the reader an understanding of why she is so eager to invite Manley Pointer into her home.
When she sees the Bible salesman, she believes that maybe he could be a suitor for Hulga. Mrs. Hopewell, so named for her eternal hope in life and its prospects, that she looks at this man with her eternal hope and thinks maybe she can get the desired happiness from Hulga afterall. She longs to be like Mrs. Freeman, also so named for her ability to be free from the worry of having to marry off her daughters, they are both either set or nearly there.