AUTHOR Sara Sheridan has turned tour guide for the day. Standing in Glasgow's George Square she conjures up an urban utopia where all the memorials honour women instead of men. Open up your imagination and – Zap! Pow! Bam! – the myriad Victorian testaments to testicular fortitude have vanished and, in their place, an army of bronze superheroines.

"On the column in the centre [replacing Sir Walter Scott], we have Eunice Murray, an amazing suffragette. People say you couldn't hear her speak without becoming one yourself," Sheridan enthuses as tourists cast a curious eye in our direction.

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The figures who line the sides of the square are equally inspiring. The ubiquitous Queen Victoria is still there, of course, her dignity only slightly diminished by her traffic cone crown. But there are others, more in keeping with the city's activist heritage: its first female provost, Jean Roberts, for example, rent strike leader Agnes Dollan, anti-apartheid campaigner Janey Buchan and pacifist MP Agnes Hardie.

Above the ongoing work at Queen Street Station, a giant billboard bears the city's conceit of itself. Normally it carries the message: “People Make Glasgow.” But today – through the power of Sheridan – it reads: "Jobs for the Girls." This is the real-life slogan campaigners came up with when Elspeth King, of the People's Palace fame, was told she couldn't be Keeper of Social History. “Glasgow City Council adopted the slogan to help it shed its 'No Mean City' image,” Sheridan explains. “Today, it can be seen on boards across the city.”

This parallel universe comes courtesy of Sheridan's new book: Where are the Women? An Imagined Guide to Scotland. Inspired by Rebecca Solnit's recreation of the New York subway system – where the stations were named after women instead of men – it attempts to redress the injustice of a world where those with two X chromosomes are not only barred from being keepers of social history, they are actively written out of it. Sheridan redraws the landscape, creating monuments for more than 1,000 women on sites across Scotland. It's a work of incredible complexity which knits the real and the wish-it-was-real together so cleverly that, before you know it, you find yourself planning day-trips to heritage trails that do not exist outside the author's head.

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The greatest value of Where Are the Women?, though, lies in the way it highlights the self-perpetuating nature of male power. What impact does it have on men's understanding of themselves to inhabit a world in which only male achievements are valued? What impact does it have on women? In 2016, historian Bettany Hughes estimated that female material makes up 0.5% of recorded history. Just 15% of Britain's statues honour women and the vast majority of these are Victoria or generic symbols such as peace or justice. Even if we do not pay them much heed, the endless tributes to male architects, inventors, poets and philosophers must shape the way we see the world, with men as doers and women as cyphers.

“I thought a lot about what it would have been like if, as a child, I had walked down George Street in Edinburgh and instead of there being six statues of men, there had been six statues of women," Sheridan says. “Then I realised that blokes walk around like that all the time and we don't even think it's weird. It's a bit like fish swimming round a bowl. You don't realise you are in the water until you are out of the water.”

Growing up in Edinburgh with two younger brothers, Sheridan has always had feminist tendencies. “I was one of those wee girls who was always saying: 'You can't stop me doing this just because I am a girl'". She was also influenced by her grandmother, who who had nine brothers and was always seeking out female company. “She was born in 1909 and was always telling me that I must vote because women had died to make sure I could.”

Having fallen into writing as a single mother working from home, Sheridan went on to produce a series of historical novels based on the lives of late Georgian/earlyVictorian female adventurers. Together with her make-up artist daughter, Molly, she founded the feminist perfume Reek, creating scents with don't-mess-with-me names such as Damn Rebel Bitches.

Her latest book was a daunting task requiring both meticulous research and wild leaps of imagination. It wasn't difficult to find women worthy of inclusion. Sheridan's initial list totalled 6,000, which she had to whittle down to just over 1,000. “Even though this is my field I was still astonished by how amazing generation upon generation of the women were,” she says. “You have the women who backed the Jacobite cause and then, after the 1745 rebellion, the Highland clearances start and so the daughters of the Jacobites are involved in opposing those. And their daughters get involved in the suffragette movement and the daughters of the suffragettes get involved with the Scottish women's hospitals or the rent strikes and so on.

“There's a continuum and yet 99.5% is missing and it's because those materials weren't valued. People don't put away granny's letters and diaries and things in the same way they do grandad's letters.”

Having decided which women to rescue from obscurity, Sheridan had to work out where and how to remember them. Though she believes statues are still the most appropriate structures for grand civic spaces, she has also used plaques, street names, decorative tiles and installations. "I looked at how monuments were created elsewhere, particularly Berlin which is one of my favourite cities,” she says. “It's a city that carries its history well. The Germans have the ability to look at terrible things with authenticity.”

Berlin's approach was inspirational when it came to memorialising the rape of the women in the wake of the 1745 rebellion; Sheridan has chosen to place a statue of a Highland woman on the top of the Glenfinnan monument, with the words of Catriona Nic Fhearghais's song: “My Fair Young Love.”

At Dunnet Head, she has created "the Lone Lass” – a statue of a woman teetering on the edge of the cliff – to honour those women who killed themselves as a result of unwanted pregnancies. “Those women were victims of exactly the kind of attitude that doesn't commemorate women,” Sheridan adds.

There are more modern memorials too: the huge screen mounted from the jib of Glasgow's Finnieston Crane shows footage of Mary O'Rourke, who once packed out the Metropole, and Janet McLuckie Brown, who became famous for her impersonations of Margaret Thatcher. Outside the city chambers is an interactive display dedicated to Marion Henery, who organised the Scottish contingent of the 1932 hunger march to London; it displays the city's minimum wage, its living wage and the gender pay gap.

Where Are the Women? provides a tantalising glimpse of an alternative universe where the female contribution is prized. But could it also be a catalyst for change? Not everything Sheridan proposes would be hugely difficult or expensive. The notebook and pen on the tiles opposite the Lighthouse in Mitchell Street [to honour the writer Dot Allan] would require minimal investment, as would the transformation of the main stairs of the Mitchell Library to resemble a pile of books written by female authors.

“I have spoken to some MSPs who have shown an interest, but if we were to do this we would need to clear a lot of space. It would need to be something our culture took seriously,” Sheridan says.

Having meandered through a virtual landscape full of fascinating women, it is demoralising to return to a city full of dreary tributes to masculinity. It's particularly depressing when you remember that more contemporary monuments – such as the quotes on the Canongate Wall at Holyrood and the mural outside the Clutha bar – are still dominated by men. “You can come away from the book thinking: 'That's a bit of a weird world, where it's all women' then walk straight back into a world where it's pretty much all men; and that's really not OK,” says Sheridan.

Where are the Women? A Guide to an Imagined Scotland is published by Historic Environment Scotland,