When I was trying to determine blade width for my first Greenland paddle (ordered from Don Beale), I kept coming back to my inability to comfortably grip a 3.5 inch wide blade at the end. Since I wanted to use the paddle for rolling, comfort holding the blade was a key thing. My Beale paddle is barely 3 inches wide -- and very comfortable to grip out at the end. My other 3 Greenland paddles are about that width too. And 86 inches long feels just right for me -- although at my height, 5' 3", I'm supposed to want something shorter.
In your case, why not cut up some thin pieces of wood to different widths ranging from 2 and 7/8 inches up to 3 and 1/4 and have the person grip each one, holding it with that C-shaped grip. Then ask her which is most comfortable.
A narrow-bladed paddle can still be very strong if you don't thin the blades too much. My paddles have fairly sharp edges (for quiet paddling) but plenty of meat in the center. Very strong.
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