I would suggest taking an NRA Basic Pistol course before you decide on a firearm. You'll get some good basic information on general safety, types of pistols, types of actions, ammunition, cleaning, and depending on the class, a chance to handle and shoot more than one pistol. Even if you've owned/fired handguns before, the Basic Pistol Class is a great review.
This is a link to the NRA site and the search function to find classes in your area:
One other option I didn't see mentioned. See if there is a shooting club in your area, especially if you think the local range isn't going to rent for awhile. If the shooting club has a range day (like many do) see if you can attend as a guest. My club is pretty good at letting new people try different weapons during range days.
If no one mentioned it already, alot of ranges have guns for rent so you can try a variety that way too.
my humble suggestion: Take a look at the Walther PPS.
It's a "sub compact 9mm" frame, and very thin in profile.
I wouldn't go with a "pocket pistol" because they typically have poor sights, a too-short barrel length, and are difficult to control with recoil due to the lightness and small size giving a poor grip. A subcompact has more of a large pistol grip feel in the hand, and a longer barrel than a pocket pistol giving both better accuracy, less recoil, and better sight alignment. A 9mm is the smallest effective round I'd recommend. If you're being charged by someone, you want to aim for the pelvic region to shatter the hips/pelvis. This stops a person in one step, not 15 or 20 seconds as with a high center of mass shot that causes the person to bleed out. Your goal is to stop the threat, not wound, kill, etc. You want to be able to create an escape for yourself and anyone else in danger. If the person is wearing a heavy coat, a .380 may not penetrate sufficiently, but a 9mm with self-defense rounds will.
Being a woman doesn't mean you should relegate yourself to a small pocket pistol auto or revolver. Try the PPS, and similar sized guns. They are small enough to conceal even in Summer, but powerful enough and accurate enough to feel like a real weapon, and not a toy.
PS, I'm 5'6" and about 120lbs, so even as a male, with a disability, I'm in a similar boat to you in regards to size/weight. I carry a Walther PPQ or H&K P30 service pistol as my EDC gun, and on the job for security. I went with a larger gun, but I am looking at the PPS myself as a Summer carry.
also see: Handgunlaw.us
Originally Posted by darbo