My wife has a S&W .380 she shoots it with ease. She is very comfortable with it and there is very little recoil.
It think for being effective and simple for her to use, a small .38 revolver that can handle +P loads would be something I would have her try. A smaller 9mm might also work. Some women have problems racking the slide though so that is something to consider. Try a few out and see which she likes best and seems to fit her the best.
The slide was the problem with my wife. I have a little sig sauer 380 that she liked shooting but she could not operate the slide efficiently. So, that was a great reason to have to buy another gun.
I'm pretty little and I carry a .41 mag with me. I don't find the recoil bad but I had a boyfriend that shot it once and threw it down and yelled a bunch of cuss words and wouldn't shoot it again. I still have my pistol but don't have the boyfriend ;)
Good call jen:D
Something like a M&P Shield, XD-S 9mm, PX4 Storm subcompact, etc...unless you want to use the better half to spend more on a gun you'll end up using more, then look into the Kimber options in .45.
My wife has carried a ruger lcr, ruger lcp, s&w 642, and now she has what she loves. A Springfield xds in .45acp. It's small, it's accurate, virtually no recoil compared to the small frame revolvers she has had, and last but not least it's a .45 acp. I carry the same gun and love it